Podcast

Neil Howe: The Fourth Turning Has Arrived

History offers a guide to crisis management
Sunday, June 23, 2013, 11:14 AM

In 1996, demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe published the book The Fourth Turning. This study of generational cycles ("turnings") in America revealed predictable social trends that recur throughout history and warned of a coming crisis (a "fourth turning") based on this research.

Fourth turnings are defined by disorder and great changes brought on by a breakdown of the systems and operating principles that dominated the prior three turnings.

Our society has entered a fourth turning (consisting of the twenty-year periods leading up to and out of it immediately.)

It is a season you have to move through before you are born again -- so to speak -- as a society, and regain institutional confidence. You have to go through a crucible to get there.

I think the fourth turning started -- probably, if I were to date it now -- in 2008: the realigning election in that year of Barack Obama against John McCain. And, obviously, simultaneously with that, as we all recall, an epic, historic crash of the global economy from which we still have not recovered.

We are sort of hobbling along in kind of a low-earth orbit, with continued high unemployment and excess capacity -- not just in the United States, but around the world. And, of course, all the rules of economic policy seem broken and lie in fragments on the floor. People are wondering what the heck do we do in this new era?

Each of the generational cohorts living within this turning (e.g., Boomers, Gen X, Millennials) have roles to play.

This is a period when, in each of these turnings, each generation is moving in their new phase of life. Boomers are beginning to retire, they are beginning to redefine the senior phase of life. X’s are beginning to assume mid-life roles as the dominant parent generation and leaders. These are people born in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And, Millennials are fully beginning to come of age and redefine young adulthood. And, meanwhile, a very small generation is just beginning to come on stream, which remembers nothing before 2008. 

We can already see these generational divisions forming, and it is interesting how each generation is to some extent defined by the thing they have, they just have no memory of, they just barely have no memory of (e.g., Boomers are defined by the World War II that even the oldest of them cannot remember).

History gives us patterns that predict how these generational archetypes will collaborate, compete, and collide with one another as we enter into crisis. Understanding these in advance will give us a big advantage on the types of policies and solutions most likely to yield success. And we sorely need these, as the problems we're heading into have no easy answers:

There are patterns here which we recognize, and it is very important not to have historical amnesia. To look back and see where we have been, see where we are going, and more importantly, to understand the dynamics behind these social trends have familiar parallels. We just need to have the historical imagination to look far enough backwards and forward to see where else they have happened or to see where they possibly will happen again.

I am nervous. I am nervous about the future right now. I think we have a lot more deep issues, deep crises, to save in the economy. I am also very nervous about what I see geopolitically.

We cannot possibly afford the government we have promised ourselves. And, that will be a painful process of deleveraging, and it is not just deleveraging the explicit debt that we have already actually formally borrowed, it is all the implicit debt. And, I think we will deal with it, because we have no other choice.

But, my point is this: No one simply solves a terrible problem on a sunny day when they can afford, at least for the time being, to look the other way. Problems like that are faced when people have no other choice, and it is a really grim day. And, it is white-knuckle time, and horrible things are happening with markets around the world, or horrible things are happening, at least historically; we have seen that geopolitically around the world. And, that is when people are forced to act.  

Strauss and Howe's research provides another lens through which to view how the next twenty years will be remarkably different from life as we've been used to. It's one worth looking through.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Neil Howe (60m:25s):

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson:  Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, of course, Chris Martenson, and we are living through one of the most exceptional periods of human existence defined on one side by extraordinary technological advances and on the other side by ecological and resource limits that we are just starting to bump up against. And I think although it is really tempting to think of this time being different, it will not be, not really. If history does not repeat, it sure does rhyme, and if looked at correctly, history is not names and dates strung along in a blur marked by events, but rather it has a structure that repeats. A grand motif that plays over and over again, but maybe with different notes.

To help us get our bearings today is Neil Howe, an American historian, economist, demographer, and best known for his work with William Strauss on social generations and generational cycles in American history, including the book, The Fourth Turning. He is currently president of Life Course Associates, a consulting company he founded with Strauss to apply their generational theory to real-world business and governance practices. He is also a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on their Global Aging Initiative and a senior advisor to the Concord Coalition. And we are just delighted to have him with us today. Welcome, Neil.

Neil Howe:  Thank you, Chris. This is great, to be here.

Chris Martenson:  Excellent. I want to start with The Fourth Turning, which walks the reader through, what, five hundred years of Anglo-American history, and reveals a cyclical pattern that repeats itself about every eighty years or so, the length of a long, human life, I guess. Can you tell us about that cycle and its components for people who have not read the book, so we can start with that?

Neil Howe:  This was a pattern, actually, that we discovered indirectly, simply by looking first at differences in generations throughout American history. We did a book back in 1991 called Generations, and it was really a history of America told from the viewpoint of separate generations being formed, young and coming of age, mid-life leaders, and parents growing old. And we found that each group saw itself very differently than even neighboring generations, and certain had different attitudes and behaviors, collectively. But as we looked at it, not only did we see that century after century, we saw these very different generations follow each other. We found that the differences actually had a pattern within them.

And, of course, since generations are shaped by history, it means that if there is a pattern in generations, there is a pattern in history itself. And indeed, what we saw and not just in America, but in most other non-traditional societies, societies that have broken free of tradition we find an oscillation of society between periods of political and economic and outer institutional reconstruction, and eras which have been called by some social historians “awakening era,” where we rebuild the world of values, morality and religion, that is to say, more of an internal reconstruction.

It has often been noted that the great external turning points, political constitutional turning points of American history often marked by total war, occur about every eighty or ninety years apart. We are familiar with the Great Depression and World War II, the Civil War, the American Revolution. Going back before that, the gigantic struggle of the War of Spanish Succession and the glorious Revolution, which played a bit part not just in Europe, but in American colonial life, and so on, in earlier periods.

But, it is also true that roughly halfway in between these periods of sort of outer world reconstruction, we have these periods of huge inner world trauma, that at least in American history have been called the “great awakenings” of American history, and they have actually, as  been given numbers. There is the First Great Awakening, which dates back to John Winthrop or Jonathan Edwards, and then there is the Second and the Third. And it is interesting that many historians call the late ‘60s and ‘70s America’s Fifth Great Awakening, showing many of the same attributes from everything from the violence and risk-taking by the young who lash out against an elder-built world, usually built by veterans of that last great struggle to an interest in cultural creativity, personal exploration, and interestingly, even substance abuse typically peaks in these periods, and of course, before the fabrication of modern drugs, that was a huge surge in the alcohol consumption per capita, which we can actually trace going all the way back to the seventeenth century.

These are patterns which have been unearthed by social historians separately, through the tremendous literature on these. We found that we were sitting there doing huge amounts of primary research. What we did, simply, in The Fourth Turning, was to say there is a metronome, there is a governor of these cycles that people notice, cycles of realigning elections, of the K wave or the Kondratiev cycle, which is a long wave in economics, cycles in family life, and in religion and culture. All of these things are governed by this basic rhythm of generational change, all having, as you pointed out, this alternate long cycle of eighty or ninety years, this long human life you talked about. We chose the word seculum to describe it. Seculum is the Latin word meaning century. But it is interesting; it is not related to tentum or the word century from a hundred. It is an old Etruscan word in Latin, and it originally meant the length of a long human life. It was simply that. Seculum is not exactly a hundred years; it is just kind of a long time, as long as anyone can remember.

And, indeed, with some of the most interesting theories of generational cycles, actually, one that was most famously articulated by Arnold Toynbee, was that the great wars in history occur because of “generational forgetting.” And, the reason you had these great conflagrations every eighty or ninety years apart is because the generation that does not remember the last war, even as children, when they become elder political leaders, lead the world into it through the next war.

Chris Martenson:  All right. So these generations, these four turnings, the archetypes that you have outlined, are going from hero, to artist, to prophet, to nomad. Where are we right now in these turnings?

Neil Howe:  These are the generations, and of course, they move through all turnings, they are just at different ages. The turnings themselves are sort of moved from Spring to Fall to Summer to Winter. We actually numbered them, talk about First, Second, Third, Fourth Turnings.

The First Turning is what we call a high, and this is, and each of these turnings is about twenty or so years long, about the length of a phase of life. Think about the time between being born and coming of age fully as an adult. And the First Turning is a high, and these are periods which are post-crisis periods of progress and conformity, and individualism is weak; institutions are strong and forward-looking. Minorities and anything that is outside the mainstream is kind of pushed off the side of anyone’s consciousness. Vernon Carrington called these the “great barbecues” of American History.

We think of the American high of the presidencies of Truman and Eisenhower and John Kennedy. And these are typically periods on the artist archetype, this coming of age in a world that was just built just before they arrived, and typically a very conformist generation. We think of the generation that was given the label “silent,” the Silent Generation in a famous Time magazine essay in 1951. And these are people born in the late 1920s, 1930s, early 1940s. Today, they are mainly in their seventies and eighties today.

The next turning, we call an awakening, this is our Second Turning. An awakening is, I just described it; these are the great awakening eras in American history. This is a time when people tire of the social conformity, spearheaded by a new generation that does not remember the last crisis. And they lash out at all the social discipline; they want to throw it off. Everyone wants to find themselves, who they are authentically as individuals, again. Most recently, we all recall the period of the most of the 1960s, 1970s, maybe early 1980s. We went from a rebellion in the culture, mainly on college campuses, to ultimately a rebellion in the economy: anti-tax movements, anti-regulatory movements. The whole motive of this whole thing was to throw off social obligation. And pretty soon, it involved all the members of, particularly the generation coming of age, both on the right and the left to a degree, which I think even today, they do not realize how much they took part in the same general ideology, which is mainly free the individual. Free the individual from control.

And, then we entered a Third Turning. We sometimes call these, in our words, the unraveling. Third Turnings are the opposite of First Turnings. In a Third Turning, institutions are weakened, discredited; individualism is strong and flourishing. You think of Third Turning decades, these are all decades of cynicism and bad manners; you think of the 1990s or the 1920s, or the 1850s, 1760s. These are times when civic authority feels exhausted and the culture feels frenetic. And people do what worked for themselves. These are some of my favorite X’er slogans, things like, “Just Do It,” or “It Works For Me.” I love that one. It works for me. I really do not care if it works for you or not.

Chris Martenson:  Yep.

Neil Howe:  It is interesting; when you go into a bookstore recently, all the most upbeat books are about me, myself, and I. I can solve anything, I can conquer the world. I have this unbelievable confidence in myself. Any book title today having to do with anything we share collectively is down-beaten and pessimistic.  the end of family, the end of community, the end of society. And I think that is a Third Turning mood.

And, then most recently, I think our society has entered a Fourth Turning. And these are, again, these are twenty-year periods. You are not just into it and out of it immediately. I think the lesson of history is that Third Turnings always ultimately culminate in a Fourth Turning. It is a season you have to move through before you are born again, so to speak, as a society, and regain institutional confidence. You have to go through a crucible to get there.

I think the Fourth Turning started in, probably, if I were to date it now, it would be 2008, possibly a realigning election in that year of Obama, Barack Obama against John McCain. And obviously, simultaneously with that, as we all recall, an epic, historic crash of the global economy from which we still have not recovered. We are sort of hobbling long in kind of a low-earth orbit, with continued high unemployment and excess capacity, not just in the United States, but around the world. And of course, all the rules of economic policy seem to have been are broken and lie in fragments on the floor. People are wondering what the heck do we do in this new era?

And I think that this is a period when, in each of these turnings, each generation is moving in their new phase of life. Boomers are beginning to retire, they are beginning to redefine senior, the senior phase of life. X’s are beginning to assume mid-life roles as the dominant parent generation and leaders. These are people born in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And Millennials are fully beginning to come of age and redefine young adulthood. And meanwhile, a very small generation is just beginning to come on stream, which remembers nothing before 2008. And these are the kids who are now just entering the first couple of years of elementary school.

We can already see these generational divisions forming, and it is interesting how each generation is, to some extent, defined by the thing they just have barely no memory of. Boomers are defined by the World War II that even the oldest of them cannot remember. Gen X’ers are defined by the American “I,” which I would say was anything up to and until the assassination of John Kennedy, whenever they began to change so much rapidly after than in 1963. That is an event that even the oldest X’er has no memory of. And Millennials have no memory of the consciousness revolution and all the family and social experimentation of the ‘60s, ‘70s, early ‘80s. It is all over by the time they came and were first looking around. So for a millennial in school today, you know ,Woodstock is an SOL question. [Laughs]  It is as far removed from them as the New Deal is for a Boomer like myself.

That is how generations move, and of course, each generation needs to correct and compensate for the excesses of the generations that came before, often the mid-life generation, when they are coming of age in youth.

Chris Martenson:  This is fascinating, that you mentioned some of the self-help books you might find on the shelf during the unraveling, sort of the me, me, me approach. And when I look at where we are today, if we look at just the economic crisis of 2008 as maybe being a dividing line, and certainly a precipitating point for the Fourth Turning, that was really brought about, I think characterized best by the attitude that Dick Cheney espoused where he said, Deficits do not matter. And, just economically, if you look at what happened from about 1982 to about 2007, 2008, when it cracked, we were racking up debts at a far faster rate than income. So you can measure that by debt-to-GDP, you could look at that household debt levels compared to income, all of these things. But this was basically the idea that we could just borrow and borrow more faster than we were earning, and it sort of got institutionalized culturally and actually in institutions, and maybe politically. And now when we get into the Fourth Turning, so here we are in crisis, how is it that a generation either sheds or deals with what I would call an entrenched fallacy that maybe the prior generation is preserving at potentially any cost? Is that a fair way to look at it, and do you have a view on that?

Neil Howe:  Generations deal with it because they have no other choice. I am down here in Washington, D.C., and at least some of my life is dealing with public policy issues, such as what to do about the extreme imbalance of our fiscal policy. And just to add to what you explained, it is worse than just the explicit debt we have been piling up. There is also all the implicit debt, which are the unfunded liabilities of all the benefits we have promised to ourselves, which no one alive today has any intention of paying in taxes.

Chris Martenson:  Right; of course.

Neil Howe:  Which is, possibly, up to $100 trillion present value in unfunded liabilities. We cannot possibly afford the government we have promised ourselves. That will be a painful process of deleveraging, and it is not just deleveraging the explicit debt that we have already actually formally borrowed; it is all the implicit debt. And I think we will deal with it because we have no other choice. I wrote my first book, actually, with Pete Peterson back in 1988, called On Borrowed Time, and it was on this huge fiscal imbalance that we could see back then. We had these tables showing Medicare and Social Security by the year 2020, 2040. Back then, we had all the time in the world to take care of it.

Chris Martenson:  Yeah.

Neil Howe:  The Silent Generation is retiring, the small generation. A huge generation of Boomers is paying all their FICA taxes and all their spouses are working. And we have increasingly pushed toward surplus. In fact, by the very late 1990s, as you recall, we were actually in a formal surplus. Do you remember? That was just before G.W. [Bush] took over, but we completely squandered that window of opportunity, and now it is gone. Now we no longer have that leeway.

But, my point is this: No one simply solves a terrible problem on a sunny day when they can afford at least for the time being to look the other way. Problems like that are faced when people have no other choice, and it is a really grim day. And it is white-knuckle time, and horrible things are happening with markets around the world, or horrible things are happening, at least historically we have seen that, geopolitically around the world. And that is when people are forced to act.

Remember that we passed the original Social Security Act, which completely reshaped the role of modern government, in 1935 at the depths of the Depression. And I think that that is what we have to recall. These things occur when we do not want to do them; we have no other choice. We would be greatly aided by the fact that the generation which was extremely civically cohesive joined every political movement and always acted in unison with their own generational interests to a surprising degree. And that was the GI generation, also known as the Greatest Generation. They all joined the union movement back in the 1930s and 1940s, and then as soon as they started retiring in the 1960s they all became AARP members, and all of a sudden we called old people “senior citizens.” They were the ones that younger Americans felt really had earned any public benefits that they thought they deserved; we paid, because they did create the system. We knew that, so whatever they wanted, we said, Okay, you’ve got it. And they defended it. They defended those benefits. And they created the system of entitlements and to some extent, the Silent Generation, which Richard Easterlin, the demographer, called them the Lucky Generation, because they have always done so well economically in their lives.  Woody Allen has that joke about 80% of life is just showing up. [Laughs]

Chris Martenson:  Yep.

Neil Howe:  I do not know any X’er who believes that is true about their career. Anyway, they have enjoyed it. But I think the advantage now is that Boomers and X’ers do not have that political cohesion, and they will not fight at least they will not fight effectively to preserve those benefits. I talk a lot to Boomers. We do a lot of surveys of people in their 50s and early 60s, and I would say most Boomers are completely philosophical about those benefits. They say, Yeah, I don’t know. I didn’t really earn them.   I don’t know where they came from. I know I paid a lot of taxes, but I was never counting it. And, as for senior citizens, no one is going to call Boomers “senior citizens.” The term is already falling into disuse for the Silent Generation, and no X’er is going to call an ex-Woodstock hippy a senior citizen. It is just not going to happen. So, basically, the Boomers are just going to relinquish hold, and we already see Boomers preparing for it, because they are all working. None of them are retiring.

Here is an interesting statistic about the economy. Since the peak of employment, all-time peak of employment was in September of 2007, and since then the economy has lost three million jobs from then to today. But here is the killer. We have lost six million under age 60; we have gained three million over age 60. Over age 60, we have actually continued to gain jobs almost every month since the Fall of 2007. It is amazing. These Boomers are not retiring, and a lot of them, a lot more of them, are continuing to work. We do surveys of expected retirement ages, and now we are going to go up, up, up in age. So it is an interesting adjustment.

In other words, I guess what I am saying to you is, I think we are already adjusting. I think we are already deleveraging, and I think that is already shaping some of the mood of the Fourth Turning as we speak.

Chris Martenson:  It is interesting, one of the things I note in my work. I think I can grossly characterize the economic and fiscal split between Boomers and Millennials like this: The Boomers actually have everything to gain by preserving the status quo, and the Millennials have nothing to gain but plenty to lose by preserving their status quo. And I am referring to the status quo here as ever-increasing amounts of debt being incurred as a means to preserve current spending levels, yet almost none of that borrowing is really going towards long-term infrastructure improvements or other tangible investments that I think the Millennials can look at and say, Yeah, that is to my benefit.

Is this gap real, and if so, how is it going to resolve itself? I know you mentioned before that it resolves during crisis, but how would you see that playing out?

Neil Howe:  It is real, and we have to see how it plays out.  You are going to have some groups of silent Boomers who will dig in their feet. There is no question about it. I guess what I meant was, it is ultimately not going to be effective, because today’s retiring generation does not have the moral clout, the legitimacy in the eyes of other generations for those benefits, not the way that the GI generation did. And they do not have an instinct for organizing the same way that the GI’s did. So they will lose that fight.

But it is interesting, when you look at attitudes of Millennials, Millennials are a pro-government generation. They believe government ought to be doing much more for the community than X’ers and Boomers, which is why, in the last couple of elections, they voted much more for the Democratic Party than older people. We have seen this in this suddenly a very large age gap in partisanship. But I would qualify that by saying, if you look closely at what Millennials want, they want government to invest in their future. They want the social infrastructure. They want the physical infrastructure. They do not want a government dominated by entitlements to individuals. That is their parents’ thing; that is the world their parents inhabit, not the world that they really want for themselves. And so they do think more than older people that these programs need to be reformed and their future growth needs to be cut.

I think what allows these generations to avoid conflict, which could be a bitter conflict, is the fact that in their personal lives, these two generations get along so well together. One of the more remarkable generational trends recently is how well twenty-somethings get along with their Boomer parents. We have polled surveys on this. We have never seen a time since the end of World War II in which so many teenagers and college-aged students say they have no problem with their parents. They get along just great with them.

According to the UCLA freshmen poll, the share of college kids who say they want to live near their parents has nearly doubled over the past fifteen years, and we see a record share of them, as  living at home. The share of 25-to-34-year-olds living at home has gone up from 11% back in 1980 to 22% today. And it is not just the economy. One of the things you are seeing for the first time is, Millennials, even after they get a full-time job, they still live with their parents. I am noticing that around here. They get to save for their first mortgage; they get to save for their marriage.

And the disappearance of the culture gap between generations is very significant today. Young people and their parents watch the same movies, they listen to the same music, they wear the same brand-name clothing, they talk about problems in their lives, to an extent that Boomers never did with their own parents. And this is a pattern also. It is interesting that [though] the Greatest Generation were great in so many things, they had some real problems, had some real failures as parents. I think one of the greatest tragedies and disappointments of the Greatest Generation was that they were so distant from their own kids. They had recalled being so close to their own parents, you know back in the 1920s and 1930s when they were growing up, but they were so distant from their own kids.

And there was such an enormous values gulf in their own kids. And similarly, I am noticing, when I talk to Boomers today, that the biggest surprise for Boomers is that they are so close to their own kids. They expected, given their own early life, that their own kids would just give them the finger and take off, and they are not. They are hanging around; they are not going anywhere.

There is a very positive side of this, actually, and that is, extended family life becomes much closer over the next couple of decades. This could hugely ease and relieve pressure on third-party entitlement payment programs and allow families to deal with resource issues internally that we now rely on public programs for. And it could ease the burden on our tax system and on government, and allow government to spend on things, or invest in things, which truly benefit our collective future.

Chris Martenson:  This is something I want to turn to now, which is, given that we are in the Fourth Turning and it is marked I guess its placeholder name is “crisis” and as we have looked through past periods of crisis, obviously there is a lot of wars embedded in that list. That seems to be one of the defining things that comes up, but what I am really interested in is using this fascinating information. What do we do with it? Knowing that we are in crisis that started in 2008, we have twenty years of it in front of us. Based on history, what can we expect? I am really interested in what we might be able to expect economically, but also politically. What are the big trends that we could count on happening here, knowing that if I have this right, we are pretty early on in the crisis stage, this Fourth Turning?

Neil Howe:  Yeah. In the Fourth Turning, we actually lay out a morphology of how Fourth Turnings usually progress.  it starts with a catalyst, something which pushes us a little bit over the edge and out of the Third Turning. I think we already had that.  that was 2008. Suddenly, everyone kind of realizes the world is different now, all the jokes and TV shows about the “new normal.” [Laughs] I think that is it. We are in the new normal now, and so we are there.

Okay, the next thing that is going to happen, which has not happened yet, goes from the catalyst to what we call the regeneracy. That is when there begins to emerge somewhere amid the despair, the hopelessness, the individualism, the centrifugal motion of American society toward billions of pieces and separate interests and the world seems to be in chaos that there is a nexus, a political party, an interest group, somewhere in society, a place where people begin to reacquire social trust. And this begins to spread outward toward a gradual sense that there is some force out there which people can join, people can feel part of some sort of sense of community. And this is not necessarily a formal organization. I am not talking necessarily about a political party, which is usually the last thing to actually join this movement. But the sense among Americans is that they have something in common collectively which is positive, and positive energy, and usually focused on the rising generation, which in this case would be Millennials.

I think everyone is sort of amazed at how Millennials have this confidence about their future. I just did a story, was just interviewed yesterday by the L.A. Times, she interviewed me and says she does not understand; she is looking at all these opinion polls, and it just says that twenty-somethings are just so confident and optimistic about the future. [Laughs] How could they be, you know? I do not get it; all these Boomers are tearing their hair out and contemplating suicide, but these young people are so confident.  

Remember, in the 1930s, it was the coming-of-age generation, the GI generation, that was confident. And by the 1940s, they were all singing songs like “Accentuate the Positive,” and  everything was upbeat for that generation. That finally became a pathology for Boomers.

Chris Martenson:  [Laughs]

Neil Howe:  We could not stand that quality of the GI’s; they were just always optimistic. And finally, it forced many of us to just we were like Meathead with Archie Bunker, just screaming in their face.

But, the point is that we see that in Millennials today, and ultimately, that will cause a regeneracy. And the regeneracy will be a growing movement of confidence among Americans, which will eventually attach to itself to organizations, political movements, and will allow us to organize ourselves out of our problems and design long-term solutions for them.

Ultimately, the next stage in a crisis is the climax. That is when we are finally organized to do the right thing, but, of course, everything on the problem side is worse.

Neil Howe:  And in our last Fourth Turning, all the problems of the world, the depression, the trade wars, Fascism, everything became one big problem, and that was World War II. Total victory, and then that had a climax, which was probably sometime in the Fall of 1942 and the beginning of 1943, where we suddenly realized we were probably going to win this thing.

And that typically happens in a Fourth Turning. All the different problems, all the different struggles, all coalesce into one big struggle, and there is a climax. And then the final moment of the Fourth Turning is the resolution. And that is when all the treaties are signed, all the new institutions are created, the cement is wet so that things are free to be shaped any way you want them. And people are going to become masterminds of a whole new global system, which is you can imagine. At the end of this Fourth Turning, it is all going to be aided and abetted by Millennials designing these enormous information technology systems to make sure that we are all looked after, like in a game of SIMS or something, a giant SIM City.

Neil Howe:  That is going to be the new Bretton Woods, the new World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations. That is going to be a whole new global infrastructure that will set the stage for the next First Turning, an era suddenly of surprising social stability and general optimism about the future. And ultimately, a period that will be the object of growing resistance and scorn by yet another generation, who will find it so bad and arid culturally, valueless.

And, of course, history keeps moving. [Laughs] The ebb and flow does not stop. One solution always gives rise to another problem.

Chris Martenson:  Ah, interesting.

I want to turn back to where we are in this story, which is somewhere between catalyst and regeneracy.

Neil Howe:  Yes.

Chris Martenson:  And that sense of community, because community is something we hearken on a lot in my community, and we talk about it, and I see people searching for it. If I could define it this way, there is a sense of people are seeking something they know is missing and they want more of this thing called community, maybe with a loose internal definition of what that is. They will know it when they see it.

Neil Howe:  Right.

Chris Martenson:  And, I think back to things like the Grange movement, which really, people self-organized for a set of purposes and I am seeing Transition Town movements today, and others, still early, they feel early. People grasping for how do we put this back together? Also, a sense that current life as it is configured, if you are living within the framework of the dominant culture, is fairly isolated, is fairly shallow, from a cultural standpoint. Many connections are not really all that deep from either work, with neighbors, sometimes with family itself, and there is a sense that we want to re-deepen that. Is that what you mean by regeneracy? Is that a coming back of community?

Neil Howe:  I think that is absolutely right, and I see it among a lot of X’ers and Millennials trying to live it a lot of X’ers who have not reentered the formal economy as we have seen a huge exodus from the labor force, from people aged 25 to 55. And they are not counted as unemployed. We have sort of hidden this problem.

But part of what they are doing is they are doing things in their community. Gen X’s are obviously big do-it-yourself-ers, and they are beginning to regenerate the community that way. It is interesting that Frederick Lewis Allen, who wrote so many wonderful books about the 1920s and 1930s as he lived through them, when he wrote about the 1930s, he described it as the decade of community and belonging. He said the 1920s were all about Babylon and were all about moving to the cities and jazz and just sort of losing yourself in the urban throngs and doing wild things. He said, in the 1930s, everything changed. Everyone wanted to bond themselves with their neighbors, their localities, their regions.

This is the time when Roosevelt and his Brain Trust were inventing all of these Alphabet Soup agencies and patches and badges you can identify yourself with. It was a great seed time for community and professional organizations in America. It was local color in the fiction. We had all these local color writers. Everyone remembers the WPA murals, which show these people all in groups pulling and hauling at common causes these murals that are now in our train stations and our airports around America. And I think that is what we recall from the 1930s.

And this could be very interesting. That mood, which was so much fused to where this coming of age, very team-oriented GI generation back then it is going to be very interesting to locate over the next decade. And that is going to be the spirit of America. That is going to be the thing which changes us as a people and ultimately gives us the power to solve these huge challenges that we face that are going to manifest itself, I think, in further economic and geopolitical crises. Because I feel that the kind of economic recovery that we have had so far is inherently stunted and unstable. It depends upon this forced hot air and kind of greenhouse armor-plating of Ben Bernanke’s bond purchases. [Laughs] And it also depends upon the fact that the labor market is hugely underutilized and that we have no labor pressure for wages.

So as long as we kind of stay in what I call this “low-earth orbit,”  the economy kind of functions, but as soon as we go back to full capacity, nothing is going to work anymore. And so we are teetering between the forces of deflation and the inflationary forces of full capacity, which we cannot possibly handle. This quantitative easing is like the roach motel. The Fed chairman can go in, but I do not know how he gets out. [Laughs]

Chris Martenson:  There is no way out. [Laughs]

Neil Howe:  I do not know how he goes out. We have corporate earnings that are at a record share of national income today. If that reverts to mean, you can just imagine what happens to the S&P 500, which basically means the economy right now, at least for the stock market to function, depends upon zero wage pressure.

So, I am nervous. I am nervous about the future right now. I think we have a lot more deep issues, deep crises to face in the economy. I am also very nervous about what I see geopolitically, and this is another analogy to the 1930s. I think the Eurozone is going to break up. I think it is going to start with Southern Europe, and it is not going to be because of sovereign debt default. Mario Draghi can always write a bigger check than any investor trying to bet against him.

So that was never an issue. The issue is political disaffection from a euro, which has become a prison for Southern Europe. The euro for Southern Europe today is what the gold standard was back in the 1930s.

It is a jail for those societies. Greece today would be vastly better off if they had gone back to the drachma back when this thing first surfaced in 2008. They would already be eligible today for new credit.  if Argentina is any guide, they would have everything renewed, and they would have a competitive currency. It boggles my mind that these countries have stayed in it.

Here is what is interesting, that the euro was designed by a generation that was not really interested they were partly interested in economic integration, but what they really wanted was to assure that Europe would not fight any more wars.  this was the war-child generation of World War II, who are fanatics about European unity. And you still see these guys in their seventies. Many of them are still in official capacities in the EU. And they are die-hard advocates of staying in the euro. But younger generations just do not get it. They do not remember any of that.

And you see younger people in Europe. They are the ones that think national anthems are fine, they love their countries’ flags. You see huge changes in community and national identification of younger people in Europe. And, perhaps more ominously, we see some of those same changes in East Asia. Look at the phenomenon of Shinzo Abe. Look at the new generation of leaders in China. We see rising nationalism there, and this worries me.

As you can imagine, Chris, I look a lot at analogies to the 1930s. I think we all remember what happened back then. And Abenomics. What is Abenomics, except an effort to push deflation and unemployment onto other countries? I think the word, which was used, it was coined by the Brazilian finance minister back in 2010, he called it “currency wars.” I think back in the 1930s, we called that “beggar thy neighbor.”

But the point is that there are patterns here which we recognize, and it is very important not to have historical amnesia, to look back and see where we have been, see where we are going, and more importantly, to understand the dynamics behind these social trends, have familiar parallels. If we just had the historical imagination to look far enough backwards and forward to see where else they have happened or to see where they possibly will happen again.

Chris Martenson:  Neil, one place I see that very clearly, and tell me if I am stretching this too far, but in the 1930s we had this rise of fascism, and today we have this rise of corporatism, and one of the most important things I want to relate this to is this idea of what Abenomics is really trying to do.

Let us be clear about something. This is a point I make over and over and over again because the press gets this absolutely back-asswards time and time again. Deflation is not a bad thing if you are a consumer. Consumers love falling prices. I would love to know that college would be cheaper in ten years for my kids than it is today.

But deflation is a killer for banks, and that is a certainty. And for financial institutions, so when the Bank of Japan in cahoots with Abe says what we have to do is just create inflation at any cost, they are not doing that for the benefit of their society at large. The benefit, if there is one, would be ancillary. If their financial institutions are strong, the thinking goes, then the people benefit, too, because then they have a better functioning economy. It is not a linkage I draw all the way through. I think sometimes they are confusing coincident indicators.

Neil Howe:  The way I would put it is this. The problem with deflation is when you see all these central bankers talk about that, and most economists will talk about that it is the zero-bound problem.  We cannot lower interest rates lower than zero. And also the fact that you cannot actually cut peoples’ wages; that just never happens. Nominal wages never get cut. If you cannot cuts interest rates below zero, and you cannot cut nominal wages, then a deflationary economy creates a very asymmetrically different situation than an economy that goes from 6% to 4%, or 4% to 2%. You go to 2% to -2%, and you are in a huge new Alice-in-Wonderland place. With shrinking capacity, shrinking labor, shrinking capital utilization, that is when you do get a debt deflation spiral that actually involves a decline in GDP.

There is a very interesting piece out. By the way, all of the people on what I call the “reflationist left,” sort of the Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman and all these people that think the government is not doing nearly enough to stimulate the economy, they all love Abenomics. They all love it. There is a paper out by Christina Romer, who is at UC Berkeley, and she was the Chairman of Barack Obama’s CEA up until 2010. And it is a paper basically saying that Obama’s effort to create inflation out of nothing by whatever means he can, by just bringing it out of his hat, just drawing this rabbit out of his hat, is exactly what FDR did in 1933. And he did it successfully, and my god, Shinzo Abe will do it successfully, and this is the best chance that Japan has.

Here is this group that is ecstatic about it, because that is what the super-Keynesian reflationist left wants, what it always has wanted, which was enormous fiscal and monetary stimulus together, to get these economies going again. Because once you have inflation, then you can create negative real interest rates by keeping interest rates low, and then you can really zoom the economy. You can create any kind of stimulus you want, and that is what they are after. It does have, obviously, the extent that you are partly expanding through dropping your interest rates and devaluing your currency. There is an extent which comes at the expense of neighbors, at the expense of trading partners in other countries. And it will breed resentment.

China, for example, does not want to drop its interest rates. It has its own monetary problems, but it is going to suffer in terms of its trade with Abenomics. The European Union does not want to drop its interest rates, but they are going to suffer as the yen declines the way it has. So it is going to create animosities, and it is going to create problems.

I think you are right about banks. You know what banks hate? Banks hate a flat-yield curve. Because banks borrow short and they lend long. And if that yield curve has no slope, they are in trouble. That is what they do not like. So banks have been hurting lately, and I think you are right about that. Because you look around the world, and that yield curve is pretty flat everywhere you look.

Chris Martenson:  Sure, and when I look at the history of economics, though, we had periods of inflation and deflation prior to 1913, and they happened. And you had your whole Schumpeter creative destruction, which would come and go, and my analysis now says that what we did was we accumulated far too much debt, both implicit and explicit. And instead of allowing those to wash out, the central banks are, and I think rightly, they are afraid. They are afraid of what happens if this becomes a self-sustaining, negative feedback spiral, as you say.

Neil Howe:  Yeah.

Chris Martenson:  Because what will happen is all those bad debts will wash out, and the pendulum will probably overswing. They will probably clear out some okay ones, too, and it will be a pretty nasty reset button. But really, that is a failing of the idea that the business cycle has been terminated. Greenspan rode out to slay the business cycle; he claimed victory on that front. I believe what he did was, he stored potential energy for a future crisis, and the snow just accumulated on the cornice; it did not actually dissipate. And so now we have a situation where, I think you are right, they are in a box.

They cannot let deflation happen, because it would be so awful, yet at the same time we do not have any of the ingredients you need for a proper inflation. So what do you do? You just keep printing, you cross your fingers, you hope for the best. But like you, I have the sense that there is another shoe to drop, and that is the last part of this podcast with you. I would love to know how do people insulate themselves or protect themselves or plan or invest, if you have advice there. But also, how do corporations, institutions, navigate this environment, knowing this sort of macro backdrop that you have.

Neil Howe:  I think mainly, to offer what seems obvious, is, to stay liquid, know exactly where your investments are. I think that Ben Bernanke. as well as Abe and all these people that are pursuing QE, basically want to take away the returns on risk-free fixed-rate instruments to push you into equities. They want to push you in to risking your markets to get the economy going. The stock market for the first time ever has become an instrument of policy. We have never had that before. I think it is one of the most remarkable and sort of unobserved features of the last couple of years. That the stock market – people say, oh, the stock market is going up. That must be great. That always was the case, because the stock market was always investors acting freely, giving their own estimation of what the present values and future dividends and earnings were.

That is what the stock market was. Now, it has become an instrument of policy by absolute design, people are being almost forced into investing in equities, because the Fed is deliberately making every other option unprofitable, or taking any rate of return on it, in order to get you to invest in that direction. And I think that that is why I said earlier that this current rally has a hothouse quality to it. It is like a beautiful orchid growing in the middle of winter, because there is this wonderful little construction that has been placed around it. So I do not trust this rally. I do not believe in it, and I think once it washes out, once it comes down, we will be facing the same reality we were before.

Look, I tell people, families, to get more involved in your community. We know in Fourth Turnings, everyone is going to require more, their neighbors, their friends, their region, their locality, and I find America is already drifting in that direction. If you look at Buy Local movements, and flash mobs, and just all the stuff going on today, and you look at the surveys, you see this, too.

Andy Kohout runs the Pew Research Center. He says there has been this huge movement of the American public just over the last decade, away from globalism and all these beliefs in multilateral institutions. Everyone now believes in their own region, and I think that, again, you see that very strongly among the young, to go with that, to become involved with that. Because one thing that we recall from previous Fourth Turnings is that there will be times in a Fourth Turning when your involvement in your community, being known to friends and having contacts, people who know people who can help you in trouble, becomes very important – particularly people who know people in positions of power, in government, who can help you. Because what government does becomes very important in a Fourth Turning. This is what I tell businesses. In the 1990s, you did not want to do anything with government. Stay off their radar screen. Maybe if you are really good they will not even look for you to tax you, you know.

Chris Martenson:  [Laughs]

Neil Howe:  Today, that is different. Today, you need to know what government is doing, because I think in the years to come, public authority could become extremely important and could suddenly acquire vast powers as the crisis elements we have talked about pose new dangers to people. So I think that is another thing people ought to do.

I am wary about investing in emerging markets. I find emerging markets are the tail end of the whip. They have done really good under QE. There is a kind of a carry trade now; you can borrow short in all these high-income countries, and you can invest in these emerging market stock markets. I find that very risky. I would not do that. I think that when the high-income countries, particularly the United States, do badly again, those markets will come down the fastest. They will come down the furthest.

I think investing in Japan is a very interesting play right now, and it is maybe for the strong of heart, if you are willing to do it. I think Abenomics is assuming risk that may be uncorrelated with the rest of the world. And so if you want something that probably will not go up or down the same as say the EU or the dollar, or the U.S. dollar and the U.S. markets, that may be an interesting play for diversification, because I think something special is going on there.

So it is going to be a difficult time. It is going to be a tough time. And let me just say further on the question you asked about inflation: Right now, unlike a lot of people, I do not see this as a fundamentally inflationary era. I see this as a fundamentally deflationary era, and I said that consistently since 2008, and I remember in all of those years, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, just people constantly saying, Oh, my god. Hyperinflation is about to break out. You can’t create all that money; you can’t print all that money. But that money that gets printed, that high-powered money that the Fed creates, just sits there as excess reserves. People have no use for it. We have a deficit of trust today in the global economy, and when there is no trust, no money gets created. No credit becomes created, and so the fundamental forces of the world today remain deflationary.

The consumer price index (CPI) around the world is hitting record lows, even now, in the Spring of 2013. Ten-year public rates world-wide and the IMF and the World Bank, they measure this stuff, is now at lowest rates ever since World War II, or since going back even before then, probably to the Great Depression. Commodity prices, most remarkably – and Chris, you may have your own views about this; it is remarkable – they are down lately. Precious metals, energy, wood; amazingly, a lot of the constituent raw materials for construction you would expect to go up if GDP were planning to go up. What is going on? Is it just China? Has China over \-stockpiled? What is going on here?

So, I guess that is maybe my final comment, is that do not discount the strength of the deflationary tide that is not just in America, but around the world today. It is not abated yet.

Chris Martenson:  With that, we are going to draw this podcast to a close. Neil, you have been fantastic. Just, if I could summarize what I heard, this is a time where one summary element was your saying this is a time to avoid risk knowing that the Federal Reserve and other central banks are really using the stock market as an instrument of policy, as one thing. But they are really pushing and shoving people toward risk, with the idea that the tail can wag the dog.

Neil Howe:  Right.

Chris Martenson:  Maybe it can; maybe it cannot. But in the context of avoiding risk, you stay liquid, you know where your money is, you maintain and enhance connections with important people – government people particularly, if that makes sense for you – and community, because we are entering a period where community is probably your greatest determinate of outcome and happiness as we go forward. Did I get that right?

Neil Howe:  Nothing to disagree with there.

Chris Martenson:  Great. Tank you so much for your time. This has been fascinating. We are going to post this at the site, spread this around. We are going to have a great discussion under it, because I think having this social construct and scaffolding to begin to understand where we are in this story is really, really helpful. Not just for knowing where we are, but potentially helping us understand where we are going, so I want to thank you for that.

Neil Howe:  Great. Thanks, Chris. It was a pleasure to be here.

About the guest

Neil Howe

Neil Howe is a historian, economist, and demographer who writes and speaks frequently on generational change in American history and on long-term fiscal policy. He is cofounder of LifeCourse Associates, a marketing, HR, and strategic planning consultancy serving corporate, government, and nonprofit clients. He has coauthored six books with William Strauss, including Generations (1991), 13th Gen (1993), The Fourth Turning (1997), and Millennials Rising (2000). His other coauthored books include On Borrowed Time (1988). And more recently Millennials Go to College (2007), and Millennials in the Workplace (2010). He is also a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he helps lead the CSIS "Global Aging Initiative," and a senior advisor to the Concord Coalition. He holds graduate degrees in history and economics from Yale University. He lives in Great Falls, Virginia.

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165 Comments

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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Posts: 392
Many layers

Interesting discussion, yet another layer in fabric of our time.  While thought provoking, nothing in the discussion really rang true for me.  It seems that there are a number of broader arcs overlaying the generation cycles discussed that are having a greater impact.

The old empires of europe and america are failing as a small cadre of privately held central banks and multational are still trying to hold onto centralized power.  Europe and america are going broke as third world giants are starting to ascend the international stage.  Capital intensive centralized solutions are giving way to localized solutions as a globalized consciousness wakes up.  "Think global, act local" is now a reality, as connectivity is transforming the world.

Hucksters, corporations and "entrepreneurs" are still trying to frantically get out in front of the latest "trend" trying to monetize new oportunities.  Meanwhile workplace participation is at all time lows despite a falling "unemployment" rate.  I would agree people are now becoming do-it-yourselfer's but both out of immediate necessity and but also from a long term board system failure that come at end of a two thousand year old cycle.

We are being made new by the changes, we are transforming the world just as we are becoming transformed by the world.  Resource depletion is setting a new table that transcends generational cycles of the past.  Recent american history (last 200 years) is an aboration that seem unlikely to repeat itself again anytime soon in any fashion.

treemagnet's picture
treemagnet
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I'm guessing....

You haven't read The 4th Turning.  For me,  I enjoyed the podcast...despite Chris's lukewarm reception to the idea/concept/idea the guests views represent, I especially dialed in on the idea that each generations solution becomes another's problem.  I was surprised, pleasantly so, regarding Howe's grasp of economics in both historical and present terms, and their implications.  4th Turnings mean bad things, and I've learned we don't discuss bad things in detail here at PP without controversy - but we should.

bientum's picture
bientum
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I've read it, big fan

I've read the book and refer to it constantly.  I believe in cycles definately.  To the previous commentor, its not about bad things, its just that we are at a point in the cycle where we hit a crisis.  Life will continue, we must remain positive despite what's going on.  In my interpretation, one day we will all collectively become quite uniform once again, as they did after WWII.  They were called the 'grey suits' cause they all looked exactly the same.  If you image a movie set in the 50s with men rushing around in cities all looking the same.  Something like that will happen again.  We will conform collectively, and work together.  It is definately a tiny bit odd to say that there is a cycle, because that in itself is paranormal.  Its like something bigger than us is at play.  But I'm definately a fan of this idea.  Good on you Howe, great book. 

I am actually writing a similar book to Howe's yet quite different again.  Nearly complete.  My cycle encompasses the 'Great Year' and a pattern.  I've been wanting to tell Howe about it for a long time, hope you get the message and are open to the idea.   

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
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Have not read the book yet...

But it is next on the reading list. I found this article helpful to give me a basic insight into what I will be reading about later. I am a tail end babyboomer (1959) and like some others have previously said, I find myself in limbo about where I belong - the boomers or X'er's. I do agree with the assertion that there is evidence of many positive inter-generational relationships. This will need to be further cultivated to help effect solutions to what is sure to be difficult times ahead.

It was also said previously that there was too much general agreement on PP. We gain nothing if that is all we are doing. We should be able to discuss bad things in detail without generating controversy.

My take is that this site has gained a reputation as one of the better sites around, part of that reputation coming from professionalism of both the content and how the site is managed, including discussion management. To use an analogy, PP is like a fine restaurant, and when in a fine restaurant, it is generally understood that good manners be used. Conversely, PP is not a fast food joint, where, like some other financial sites out there, the comments are "anything goes" and the insults fly. When it gets like that, what is the point? There are a lot of extremely intelligent people here who have real insights to share and it would be really nice to see that intellect used constructively in discussions of even difficult topics. We all benefit from it, when it is done well.

We are at a really important junction in time, where hard choices and decisions are going to need to be made to navigate through tough times. If the people who "get it" - such as the many people who frequent this site - cannot have the hard discussions that will challenge our thinking and lead us to making the right decisions for ourselves and our families/communities, then we have little hope of effecting positive change. If we can't do it, who can?

Jan

tommyguy's picture
tommyguy
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Crisis

I agree with treemagnet.  I was interested in Howe's observation about the congeniality between Millenials and their Boomer parents, which I think we all can see.  It suggests to me a greater likelihood for a foreign trigger of the Crisis.  And it may offer hope of a less violent path through.  We all know that debt and unfunded liabilities will have to be renounced...but it will be a lot easier if we have overseas fall guy.

Grover's picture
Grover
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Without Community, You're All Alone

When I read the book, history finally made sense because there was a context for names and dates to fit within. I'm glad I listened to this podcast. I had forgotten how governmental institutions will be rebuilt in the regeneracy. That is a component in my personal community building that I've overlooked. So far, everything I've done has been in spite of government.

Neil's advice for the future tended toward financial aspects. To me, investing in Japan right now is akin to watching a soufflè bake knowing your kid always slams the door. Will it be done in time? Worry about investing when the High comes around. 

I wish he had focused more on community building to improve the odds of getting through the crisis. I see all the generations being useable and necessary for a vibrant community. Each generation has something to offer. Each should be utilized. Each should be welcome. As we get further in this cycle, the needs will become more obvious. If you know what to expect, you can plan accordingly.

Grover

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Circles? If only.

Exponential curves impress me more than circles.

They are more powerful than the curves I knew as a young man.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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Universal Truths

I have not read the book.  I do like the thinking that brings in diverse disciplines, I have always liked reading cultural historians, which comes across in the interview.  My favorite is William Irwin Thompson who can be a little arcane, who takes a deeper and broader view of human history and culture.

I guess the stumbling block that I have with the basic premise of this twenty year cycle, which appears to be presented as a normal part of the evolution of human culture, where one generations solutions become the nexts problem, in MHO, is the signature of a dysfunctional culture (perhaps this is addressed in the book), and is nothing like "normal".

There are cultures where this intergenerational "forgetting" is not the norm, where there is not strife between generations.  I don't think that we are condemned to  repeat this cycle ad infinitum. These are all symptoms of a sick culture that is trying to heal and course correct, but for a set of complex reasons is unable to do so. There are underlying reasons for this dysfunction, which are being addressed and healed in our time, which to me is amazing and very exciting.

This thinking seems to be tangled in the symptoms of a disease which has been taken as normal, while missing the transformative deeper movements that are emerging in our times.  Perhaps I have missed something, curious to hear feed back.  Right now this book is not on my reading list.

ptwisewoman's picture
ptwisewoman
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A boomers perspective on cycles

I did read this book right after it was first published and another time later.  I own it and have recommended it to a number of friends.  I had read their book Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069, which explains the 4 generational cycles in detail and was excited to read T4T.  I did find it constructive in helping me view the micro-event responses (generations moving through time) occurring.  For me time is a spiral, we move around the circle but the location is always a bit different.  Sometimes we move up the spiral, sometimes down the spiral.  Long-term there is no such thing as only upward progress.  And with any plotted line on a graph, the view of the movement depends on how close in you are to the details.  The fact that there are larger cycles coming to a transition at this moment in time doesn't preclude generational cycles having some impact on what is occurring.

This is a little like understanding epigenetics and the influence of environment on genes.  We inherited some things that don't change and we inherit a lot that can change with environmental influences (nutrition, exposure to pollutants, etc).  Our generations have some aspects that are "hardwired" and some that adapt with the events we must handle.  If you aren't aware that boomers, as a group (not necessarily every individual), tend to be seriously attached to their view of the world and do not move easily and can be downright dictatorial, you've not been paying much attention.  That works well for some crises and not so much for others.  If you read the book Generations (and it is no easy effort) you will understand much better what is in T4T and how it may influence the crises we are in.

Each generation has much to offer as we stumble and trip through this series of messes.  None of the generations have all of the answers or all of the best management skills.  We must stop letting media talking heads on both sides pit generations against each other.  While I agree that unfunded liabilities and government bennies that have been promised but not paid for must be dealt with and all will need to sacrifice, some of the words and tone I've seen here and elsewhere isn't going to bring us to consensus quickly and my sense is sooner than later would be better.  We must see the issues as a whole and not individual parts and certainly not as another generations need to give up.  That isn't something humans do well and Americans are particularly bad at it.  We certainly do need to stop worshiping our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) as the last folks in the U.S. with any good ideas on governance and get on with creating something better given the world we actually live in.

treemagnet's picture
treemagnet
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You'll love it

based on your posts, I think.   I know its just one book, but what a book! 

Grover, I don't know who said it first, but my favorite expression for Japan is 'a bug looking for a windshield'. 

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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To prove your point wise woman.

If you aren't aware that boomers, as a group (not necessarily every individual), tend to be seriously attached to their view of the world and do not move easily and can be downright dictatorial, you've not been paying much attention

I shall proceed to prove your point.

Where do you see cycles in this? Just show me how this is utterly wrong and I shall retire to my rocking chair and suck my toothless gums and wear a silly grin.

Some are mindreaders and say that I am happy about this. To them I reply "Try to read your own mind first before reading mine."

And I have in no way discounted the exponential curve that science and technology are displaying.

The only relief that I can get from my models is to observe my immediate world. To shrink my horizons right down.

The trouble is that I have become used to the expanded view that my civilization offers me. In the Zambezi valley I saw a woman toiling on a bare patch of dirt, with a baby on her back, another by her side and another on the way. Her horizons had a radius of 100 meters and whatever she could remember was the length of  her T axis. Civilization  offers us too much to toy with the Blue Pill.

Just show me that my model is wrong and I will go quietly.

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gillbilly
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The Missing X

I haven't read the book, but I plan to this summer. Treemagnet and Treebeard I don't think you are necessarily at odds. We may be in both types of cycles, one small, the other large. I find it interesting how historians use musical terms to describe the cycles and flows of society, eras, and nature. The "rhythm" of life, living in "harmony," a "metronome." Listen to Beethoven's fifth symphony. It is built through the use of  isomorphism from the very first motif, this motif being the first small "cycle," which becomes the building block for the entire work.  We may be experiencing a smaller cycle within a larger. So Treebeard you may be looking at the much larger cycle, and Treemagnet focusing on the smaller. 

The archetypes correspond to C.G. Jung's basic archetypes of the individual, and the collective. Hero/Shadow, Anima/Animus, Journey/Death and Rebirth, etc... these are not just personality traits and symbols, but life cycles within the individual, collective society, and the universe. 

I  find it interesting how much of the interview centered around the boomers and millenials. Xers were mentioned, but not really discussed in a meaningful way (this is where Jung would point out that the shadow side is pushed back into the unconscious). Often the Xers are lumped in with the boomers, and sometimes boomers don't want to be classified as such and try to take on the X label. Jan, I love your posts, but I would like to say that you firmly fall within the years of the boomers, but with that said you may feel your narrative more aligns with the Xers.  

I think the fact that the boomers are holding onto their jobs well past the age of "retirement" is causing resentment in the Xers, not the Millenials. Is it that the boomers are holding onto the jobs to prepare themselves, or is it that they don't want to relinquish their control? The comment that the boomers have no intention of being called senior citizens is somewhat revealing. The hero archetype is one that is collectively dominating our culture right now. We (especially in America...the world "hero"<sarc>)   have completely fallen in love with it, and those who have the most control have fallen in love with it the most. The indications of this is most evident in the emphasis we put on our leaders (CEO compensation in particular).

I am seeing more community involvement as well, which is really wonderful. I am also seeing more ground up solidarity in the workplace as well, so the beauracratic top-down decision making is being challenged.

In the end, I feel the labels that we use to classify individuals only divide us. Maybe the fourth turning is a time (however that unfolds) to shed these labels so we can see each others as fellow human beings within a interconnected universe, and not as the labels we classify each other.   

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Exponential curves versus Generational personalities that cycle

Arthur, your charts really have nothing to do with my quote that you reference.  Hard to tell if you are being serious or something else.  The screwed up current messes have been developing for most of the last century with a serious speed up since WWII.  That really has little to do with the generational cycles Howe is describing.  You are describing the crises, Howe is describing generational personalities and how they, in aggregate, tend to deal with the crises they are dealt each time around and where they tend to be in the generational decision-making when the crises reaches a tipping point.  If both books are read, this is a lot clearer than can be gained in a brief interview.

The reason we can't sort through the problems and identify the causes and not the symptoms and determine which can be fixed/solved and which can't and we must therefore adapt to, is we talk at each other more than to each other and love to blame others rather than ourselves in aggregate.  And a lot of people currently "in charge" are busy protecting the status quo, taking pot shots at the other political sides, and trying to keep the little peoples happy enough they don't really start figuring out what is going on.  That has also repeated in prior declines of civilizations.

The cycles of history/time are the patterns of civilizations and they certainly do repeat themselves.  This time may have different crises and different technologies but we are still headed down the same road.  We are not the first civilization to experience climate change, resource depletion, devastating wars or a shift in the demographics of births and deaths and we won't be the last unless we continue to live with our heads up our butts arguing about the symptoms and not the causes because this time we've created the globalization beast that left uncontrolled will do enough damage to seriously thin all populations.  The world won't end but it may have different life forms.  The cycles of generations, as Howe describes, is defining a repeating "personality" for each generation that tends to be reflected in how they deal with the issues they are experiencing and where they are in time when the SHTF.  It is not the definitive answer to what is happening now, it is one way to put a frame around it to see it better.

I like exponential curves too but you can get lost in the woods of the ups and downs, focusing on the nosebleeds rather than figuring out how to stop the wagon to get off.

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Good reply.

So, if you could do anything you wanted - say....five things.  What five things would you do to address the economic mess we find ourselves in.  Paint with a broad brush, but no world peace stuff.  Curious as to your fix -from a boomers perspective.  Its a question I've asked myself - easier to ask than answer! 

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I am seeing two points of

I am seeing two points of view emerging in the discussion.  Among many others.

One view is that the turnings are relevant, important, and generational influences are to be reckoned with and not ignored.

The other view is that the turnings are inconsequential or at least small relative to the upcoming exponential growth in population, resource depletion etc... as outlined by Arthur's favorite graph.  Although as I read his posts about it I feel sad and think it is his least favorite graph. As I recall from prior posts it leaves him very concerned about his family and their futures. Population growth may outpace the turnings.

NB:I thought Arthur was being self effacing in referencing the quote about boomers being dictatorial, I assume he is a boomer.

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Useful Heuristic Tools

I agree that cycles can be useful heuristic tools but will what happened 50, 100 or 200 years ago really be  relevant as we enter the age of climate chaos and peak cheap oil/declining net energy?

It is hard to not think that this time it may be different and previous historical patterns won't play out in the same manner.

In any case, it is not an either/or proposition.  One can take into consideration cycles and exponential curves in trying to make sense of what lies ahead.  The greatest mistake probably is to be over-confident in thinking it is even a little knowable.

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many layers

Yes, many layers.  I liked that comment best.  Some of this stuff is based on - in some sense - physicality and the various truths of our existence on earth, and how that interoperates with memory, belief systems, thinking, and experience.  Others are strictly physical effects.

Many different things are happening at once.  Think of each "thing" as a wave, in physics, with its own power and cyclicality.  Sometimes the waves reinforce each other, sometimes they cancel, but they definitely all interact.

For instance, the "turning" effect is based on the lifespan of a human being, and the generational memory that goes along with that lifespan.  Its no accident that Glass-Stegall was flushed after all those who had actually lived through the Great Depression were in retirement homes or gone.  WW1 came about after people with any memory of the last general european war had all died off.  Revolutionaries are passionate, their children moderate, and their grandchildren apathetic.  Possibly it also says that even those who remember history are doomed to repeat it too.  [Just because Bernanke knows about the Depression doesn't mean he can simply wave away the massive debt bubble pop that was the true cause]

Then there are resource depletion effects.  Coal powered England's industrial revolution, but - it eventually depleted, and how do we imagine this affected their wealth curve?  Its always more expensive (and it makes you more vulnerable) to construct an Empire to get stuff rather than simply dig stuff out of the ground at home.  So that "critical resource depletion" curve is overlayed on the human lifespan curve.

Then there are demographic/population effects.  Rich nations population growth look vastly different from poor nations populations.  And young populations act much crazier than the older ones.  That's why Greek protesters are mostly civil, while the Arab Spring protests - much less so.  Its not about Arabs per se, I claim its about the fact the Greeks are (on average) 43, while the Egyptians are 25, and the Syrians - 22.  (Boy, that's young).  So the demographic curve is overlayed on the lifespan and resource curve.

Then on top of that, add a national development curve.  Agriculture, industrialization, service, finance, decay and collapse.  And aggregate that into a regional dominence curve.  "Wealth moves east-to-west" with a 100 year cycle.

Then overlay a 4-year interest-rate central bank-managed boom/bust cycles on top of that.

And how about the 60-year debt supercycle?

Then governmental repression-revolution cycles; how long does a dictatorship survive?  What are its cycles?  Lenin to Stalin to Brezhnev to Gorbachev to ... a new cycle.  Or maybe that's just the Turning effects, with government simply being a local expression.

And of course each nation has its own set of these, and they impinge on each other - the effects of this web of signals, some canceling each other out, some reinforcing each other's power, are what cause things to happen in the world.  Arab Spring blew up Egypt, while Spain's Spring - ho hum.  Why did one light fire while the other fizzled out?  Egypt must have had a bunch of waves reinforcing each other, while Spain had some canceling each other out.  Imagine being able to track all these effects.  Hari Seldon's project.  Wouldn't that be fun?

Anyhow, for me the Turning concept is just one wave with a particular cyclicality and power.  If you haven't taken physics perhaps that means nothing - perhaps suffice it to say this just provides society with a particular bias during this phase.  There are a lot of other waves happening at the same time, and much like genetics, none of them dictate individual outcomes, but they do provide the backdrop onto which our struggles must occur.

You still create your own reality, but all these things taken together make some things easier, and other things harder.

Or put another way - if your body genetics are such that you tend to put on weight, you can still affect the outcome - although it is likely you will be limited to "being average" rather than "getting a six-pac."  And perhaps you can use the understanding of the current bias to accurately assess whatever your accomplishments are during the 4th Turning similarly.  Keeping your savings intact: great success!!  And...OMG, my chickens actually lay eggs!

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Overlapping Cycles

Arthur,

Your graph is based on a model that projected consequences of resource depletion. Wasn't this originally created in the 1970s? I somewhere saw the same graph with actual measures a few years back. Based on the measures, the model was remarkably prescient. The line that startles me the most is the "births." Once the social systems break, having large families will be (presumably) the answer to old age security. I hope to be a point on the "death" line before that happens.

treebeard,

You are correct that we're not doomed to repeat this cycle. If each generation goes through all the same "coming of age" rituals and moves into the same life stages with the same expectations, there is no cycle. That is how it was in native American societies and during the Dark Ages of Europe. I doubt there is much of a generational cycle in Amish communities now.

For those of us living in the "modern" world, where and when you formed you first memories influences your outlook. Your experiences throughout life have been different than someone 20 years older or younger. Those born in your generation generally share the same conditions you did. As you get older, do you think your generation will have the same reaction to stimuli as another generation would? Why wouldn't you want to "fix" the problems you encountered growing up? Are you raising your children the way you were raised?

I'm guessing - probably not. That is what gives rise to the generational differences. The 4T theory has a double two stroke engine brewing. Neil said there is a Spring-Fall, Summer-Winter cycle going. At first, I thought he misspoke when saying that. Late wave Xers may have early wave Boomer parents, but most Xers have Silent parents. Most Boomers have GI parents and Millenial children. Think about it.

Grover

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We are getting into a good discussion.

@davefairtex.  Yes, it is many layers and many long and shorter term cycles coming together.  A bit like high tide and the hurricane land fall at once times 1,000.  And for some people it might be OMG, eggs come from chickens!

@treemagnet.  You ask for five things so the following is long but my effort to respond.

  1. Decrease the size of government.  Big government isn’t the problem.  Big government married and dictated to by Big business is the problem.  Socialism isn't the future in the U.S., it is Fascism and we are galloping along very nicely.
    1. Pass a constitutional amendment getting corporate money out of politics and specifying that corporations are not people with the same constitutional rights as people.
    2. Take existing GAO review of government duplication and implement changes to eliminate duplication and streamline government activities.  We don’t need 3 to 4 government agencies (federal and state) setting rules for people producing food to sell for instance.  We don’t need several food programs for people who are in poverty.  Just one, covers only food, consistent across regions and not forever.  Any assistance is accompanied with job training and help moving to where the jobs are and maybe basic cooking skills and help recognizing the difference between potato chips and potatoes.  Here local governments really need to work to have good access to food throughout their areas.  Also part of this is minimum wage being high enough that the working poor don’t need assistance.  And just to throw in a zinger, I would rather pay for family planning than food stamps.  And I would love it if people didn’t think that making children was the highest expression of themselves.  Just saying.
    3. Re-structure the tax system.  Corporate flat tax at a competitive rate (to be actually debated but I think somewhere around 12-15% would be a good place to start), no incentives, no subsidies, no write-offs.  Personal tax rates decreased so that SSI and tax rates combined are equal to actual (not effective) tax rates now at all levels, no subsidies, no write-offs, and no incentives.  Non-earned income should be taxed the same as earned income.  No deductions for more than 2 children.
    4. Pass a law that gives corporations only 3 opportunities to break the law or create major pollution problems by any person in the corporation at the decision-making level.  Once they hit three, their corporation charter is revoked.  No discussion.
    5. Create a firewall between corporations and political appointments that actually closes the revolving door.
    6. Re-structure Medicare making it a basic policy.  Supplemental policies can’t pay more than half of the 20% or deductible.  Eliminate fee for service throughout the system not just for Medicare which means re-structuring health care and finding a meaningful way to ensure everyone has basic coverage.  If they want more than can buy additional coverage.  We do not have the best health care system in the world; we have the most expensive, most poorly structured and most likely to benefit a few system.  People should not expect Medicare to extend their or their parents lives indefinitely because they have not dealt with death.
    7. Re-structure SSI.  Other income from any source (including pensions & investments) impacts SSI drawn after $40,000.  If above that the person can’t receive more than was paid in for them by themselves and their employers.  And that isn't as much as most people think unless they are really high wage earners.  They can withdraw over time or in quarterly payments of not more than 10% of total paid in each quarter.  Or they can leave it in if they are concerned about other income falling at some point and then apply for SSI.  Let people make some decision about how much they want to withdraw, especially in the first decade or so.  They may be able to live on less than they would receive under the standard rate and may need it later in life.  Raising retirement age or eligibility for Medicare isn't the solution.  Making the system more flexible is.
    8. Close most of the military bases overseas, stop trying to be police for the world and stop bullying everyone else.  Stop unbidded contracts, especially in military and state department procurement.
  2. Eliminate the gerrymandering in districts by using the same system already used by several states to stop the political packing for party benefit.  Move to one person, one vote in every state.  No party designations required to vote anywhere.  I live in a state where I can vote in either primary.  My voting registration does not record a party.  Since I don’t support either, that is a good thing.
  3. Eliminate the Fed.  I don’t think I need to explain this.  Have the government go back to being accountable for printing money, not the Fed (which is the worse of all worlds.  Totally unaccountable, not really in the government but many think it is) feeding it to banks at zero interest to loan it out at 7-25% interest and voila we have more money chasing stuff (simple definition of impending inflation).  Eliminate pay day loans.  Require banks to maintain cash on hand at reasonable levels, i.e. much higher than now.  Eliminate any government entity that shifts debt created by banks out of their hands so they can loan more and someone else can be responsible for the mess and bad decision-making.
  4. Globally eliminate the WTO and the World Bank.  The ideas weren’t too bad initially but boy the result stinks.
  5. Have a serious discussion nationally about the instant gratification we’ve become addicted to and how harmful it is.  Whether debt or consumption.  Have a serious discussion about what our out of control wants is doing to other countries and resources around the world.  Have an honest discussion with ourselves that we have created a mess we are going to have to live through, it isn’t going to be short-term, or painless, or easily fixed by one or another politician promising things they can’t keep.  It isn't the result of the last election or the previous one but a whole series of elections.  The discussion should include living with less consumption, less junk, less debt, less electricity, less driving our cars and more solving problems with our neighbors and enjoying simple pleasures.  Understand there is no quick solution to the economic mess we are in.  It has taken nearly a century of decisions to get us to this point and we are going to hurt a lot before it is over.  Even if we start making better decisions tomorrow.  We might also stop indulging in conspiracy theory inventing and demagoguery toward people who don’t agree with us.  Both are a waste of time.

BTW, I have no idea what world peace looks like but a little less war mongering would sure be nice.  We have been on a serious war wagon since WWII and just look where it has gotten us.  Having said all of the above, I frankly think we need a smaller country and fewer states in the U.S., consider breaking into a confederation of regions much like Switzerland.  I think we will move in that direction over time but it will probably be the next, or the following set of generations that will get us there.  We in the U.S. have to stop worshipping our past before we can look for new solutions for the future.

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Howe sees positives where I see negatives

Chris,
Excellent interview.  Mr. Howe has clearly identified an interesting pattern based on a lot of work that bears consideration.  I also respect the fact that he really has done some homework on the economy and understands a lot of the issues, economically, that are creating the current tremors and quakes in the global markets.

However, Mr. Howe said several things that seemed kind of tossed off, or he assumed to be fact, when they actually are concerning and worthy of a deeper analysis.

1)  Millenials are living at home more.  Isn't that great?  They really must like their parents.  At least that's what they're saying in surveys.

No, it's not great.  A) they can't afford to move out because they either have no job or a crappy job at Starbucks, and can't afford rent or afford a house downpayment and monthly payments, B)  thanks to the wonders of Obamacare, able-bodied adults up to age 26 now get free healthcare simply by living at home with their parents (who might actually, maybe surprisingly to Mr. Howe, want to have a life post child-rearing), C) If I were getting room, board, healthcare, parking, and who knows what else I'm getting from my parents, I would hopefully be favorably disposed to my sugar-daddy.

So no, Mr. Howe, I think this is a bad development, not a good development that so many kids are living at home into their adulthood rather than move out and have a truly independent life.  One doesn't grow until one has to face, and overcome, obstacles.  That's true across generations whether you're a Prophet, Nomad, whatever.  That said, I think there are important benefits of being close emotionally and perhaps geographically to your extended family. 

2)  We're going to have to learn how to cozy up to important government officials in the future to get more of what we want.  If this is true, we are going down a worse rathole than we already are in.  It sounds more like Mr. Howe thinks we're moving to be more like corrupt, and failing, China than what we were in the best days of the U.S.  The size and scope of government is crux of the current problem.  The solution is not to have more government influence and more need to rely on government officials.  The solution is to shrink the government back to a Constitutional size and scope, meaning minimal need for "cozy up to the government".  

I think in contrast to what Mr. Howe appears to think, I that the failure of the collusive (or fascist as some define it) system between the government and markets, operating to the detriment of average citizens and Main Street, is upon us and will lead to pain and suffering of an unknown but probably large magnitude.  And this is likely to lead to a collapse of these wonderful government and financial systems, in a process that may leave a skeleton of the government behind, but a weak and crippled government at best.  And one that will not be able, even it wants to, to provide the glorious benefits that Mr. Howe thinks we need to able to cozy up to.

3)  Mr. Howe, again through some utopian and unrealistic lens he seems to be peering through,  appears to diminish the power and prosperity that follows when individualism is allowed to flourish and instead focuses on how especially the Millenials are going to come together and rebuild a great collectivist society with giant "Sims" databases that will take care of all of our needs.  

After the reset, I truly hope that Millenials learn the failures of collectivism and centralized planning and power, and rediscover the principles laid out by the Founding Fathers, and understand both the impossibility (and arrogance) of the idea that a few people or a computer program can predict and provide all the wants and needs of 300 million people simultaneously, and the dangers of abuse that concentrating power in a small number of people intrinsically creates.  Small, powerful, effective government providing things like infrastructure and standards, and information gathering and publishing- Yes!  Massive taxing to redistribute money based on some semi-arbitrary possibly corrupt formula, telling citizens how to think and live, promoting one special interest group over another special interest group- No!

That being said, I agree with idea of having more well-connected communities, which is one of the best natures of people.  But Mr. Howe, and perhaps Chris are missing a key ingredient of successful communities.  The community contract is that individuals in the community start from a position that they will work hard as individuals to take care of their own needs, and these needs and the needs of their family are their primary responsibility.  Accessing the community is only a secondary support for this fundamental responsibility, and any knowledge-sharing, surplus sharing, temporary safety-net activities go with the expectation that the individual will do all in their power to take of themselves. 

Strong communities start with strong individuals, not the other way around.  Mr. Howe may disagree with or may not realize, but one of the most pressing problems in America right now is the "gaming of the system" by everyone from disability recipients to billionaires.  The suckers are the ones that play by the rules and are honest, and are becoming the minority. 

The law of balances in nature says this cannot continue forever, or as Margaret Thatcher once said, "the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of someone else's money".  Mr. Howe surely sees the need for a society built on a foundation of individuals who make their own money from their own work and creative ideas.

Finally, I worry about two little flies in the ointment of these cycle theories.  1)  We seem to be having an amplification effect of how bad successive crises are during the Fourth Turning, in no small part to technology gains.  The last 4th turning crisis was WWII if I understand things, which was unlike any event in human history in terms of its destruction and death.  It does not give me comfort that our technology, and I don't just mean weaponry but also cyber and biological warfare, is much more powerful than during WWII, so a true WWII-like event will not be just a little speedbump that we skip over and resume the First Turning merrily along, Sims database building and all.  Second, I'm not sure how Mr. Howe views event like the Dark Ages which were centuries long over much more than one "seculum" (sp?).  I realize that was over a thousand years ago, but in the sweep of history, it was very recent.  Just some honest questions that are from one person's views.

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Disagree about Deflation

I forgot to add that, if I understand his views, that Howe is not correct regarding lack of future inflation/ hyperinflation.

Howe is sort of right, the world is "trying to get to" deflation.  The Austrians would say world markets are trying to heal itself from overinvestment and mispricing of assets.  Markets are trying to deflate.  

The problem is that central banks won't let markets deflate.  That is the central reason for their existence.  To smooth out the business cycle.  No inflation, no deflation.  But, oops, they did allow too much inflation over a great many years and a great number of assets.  Thus markets are trying to naturally return to balance but cannot because of extraordinary manipulation by CBs.  So, yes we will get temporary deflation here and there as little attempts at resets, but these have been and will continue to be squashed by the Fed's printing press.

You think QEinfinity was unprecedented, it's likely you ain't seen nothing yet.  Look for QE for student loans, QE for home owners, QE for small business, QE for big business (more than just historically low corporate debt rates), QE for pedicures, the list is endless.  That' s when the real inflation starts.  And we know where it ends.  If you consider a currency reset deflation, then yes, it ends in deflation.  I just didn't get that from Mr. Howes views.

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Thats interesting

Thanks for putting that out there.  Always enjoy specifics here at PP as opposed to theory.

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Wisewoman

Wisewoman:

Pass a constitutional amendment getting corporate money out of politics and specifying that corporations are not people with the same constitutional rights as people.

Agreed.

Your post has many points that need to be expanded on in bite sized chunks.

All: That graph is not my favourite. Sometimes I wish I was an airhead that had never clapped eyes on it. It has caused me many sleepless nights. But as the story teller always ends, "You can't say you don't know, you know now." It was that apple or the red pill.

Dave: your explanation reminds me of reason why magnetic fields do not distort light even though light is made up of a magnetic component and an electric one.

Vegan: I am indeed a babydoomer. Even though my path has not been the same as everyone elses I can see the similarities between me and the rest of us. And yes, my comment was meant to be self-effacing. I was trying to invoke an ah-ha!

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John Mauldin

Mauldin coined that...he's taken recently to calling 2013 "the year of the windshield", incidentally.

Cheers,

Mike

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Dave - I'm guessing there

Dave - I'm guessing there aren't too many people here who even know the Hari Seldon reference - which I enjoyed, thank you!  He is a character in the "Foundation" trilogy by Isaac Asimov, the brilliant sci-fi writer (he wrote I, Robot). Hari is a "psychohistorian", if memory serves, who is able to predict long term trends with amazing accuracy. A simplistic summary I know, but my memory has faded. It had quite an impact on me when I was a teenager. You might find it interesting, Arthur.

Nature, of which we are a part, is characterized by cycles. "There is nothing new under the sun" someone said, including the extinction of species on the planet. In discussing the Fourth Turning and larger cycles of time, we are assuming the continuation of our species. Given the precarious position we have put ourselves in, we can no longer assume that. It's an interesting intellectual exercise to talk about generational profiles, but now we are looking down the end of a barrel we created. These times are unlike any other times because we are now a global community connected by air travel and internet in a way we have never been before. We have reached this mass of humanity from cheap energy that allowed our unchecked (despite pandemics and war) proliferation. For the first time, we can kill ourselves and everything else on the planet. "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

So we may be looking at the end of cycles for the human race. Or, if being really optimistic (wishfull thinking?), the beginning of a "new human". The problem is that there is so much inertia in the whole thing that I just can't see it happening under the current paradigm. We have run our course. We have run up against natural laws that specify the limits we thought didn't apply to us.

Something like 98% of the species who have ever lived on the planet have gone extinct. Maybe we're just another one of them, only we have the capacity to analyze our shortcomings and see where they have led us. We are self-aware but not enough, so far, to change our trajectory. My question is, is there still time to change even if we could? What would it take? How much would need to be sacrificed so some could survive? We have created this complex, intertwined, fragile system that is ready to fall apart at any moment. We are teetering at the edge of a precipice - or maybe even an even more accurate analogy might be, commenting on the scenery on our way down.

I'm sorry that the current generations - the whole lot of us - are stuck facing the culmination of our species' actions over the timeline of our existence. We're facing challenges none have ever faced to this degree before. All of us, every generation currently on the planet, will witness the dissolution of all that we have known. Chaos and collapse are already the reality for many of us - severe weather, power outages and economic and social turmoil. It's only a matter of time before the rest of us experience it.

I know this sounds negative, I know this sounds defeatist. But it is where we are headed barring a major change in how we live on the planet. Or, maybe a miracle. Does it really matter anymore what any generation did or will do? Only if we do the opposite of what we've done up to now do we have a chance. Only if love prevails and self-interest is replaced with a focus on the greater good do we have a chance. Only if we acknowlege our place within the web of life and learn to live in balance with all that is, do we have a future. If it's not too late that is.

It's hard to face the truth of what we've done and how we've behaved. But with the loss of each species, with the loss of habitat, with the loss of arable land and clean water, with the loss of jobs and homes and hope, we are confronted with the consequences of our actions and inactions.

All that is left is to live in the moment and to treasure what we still have right now. To find joy and to love fiercely. To be present to everything as it is happening no matter how difficult. I'm grateful I can share these experiences with those here at PP so I don't feel so alone, even if we don't always agree on everything. At least we are aware and talking and sharing which are all valuable. Thanks for listening.

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Using force to build the world you think is right...

Ptwisewoman,

How many of the things on your list require force to achieve?  All of them?  Do you not think that many of the rules that we currently have were put in place by people just like you who thought they were doing the right thing and used the force of government to make sure people comply.

I think if we are going to reach a state that we don't go through these cycles we will need to address the fact that we need to change the conversation about how we organize.  Why is it that we can discuss voluntary community, voluntary cooperation with neighbors, but then insist of having a government to force our will onto others?  To force those we don't agree with to comply to our will.

How about we don't have a government that determines what I can eat or put into my body? How about one that doesn't decide for me what I must support with my labor?  How about one that doesn't try to dictate morality to me?  One that doesn't dictate what I must use as money? Anytime you force your will onto others there will be resentment and eventually conflict.

Just keep in mind, all those lofty goals you have listed mean you are willing to steal, hurt or kill to force people to comply.  When you force compliance is that community?  Is it a world you want to live in?  How about if you are on the wrong side of that force?

ptwisewoman wrote:

Even if we start making better decisions tomorrow.  We might also stop indulging in conspiracy theory inventing and demagoguery toward people who don’t agree with us.

So what if I don't believe in your utopia you have described?  What are you going to do if I don't agree with you?  Are you going to force me to comply?  Isn't that what war is?

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ptwisewoman
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Huh?

@rhare, did you actually read my post?  I was asked for 5 specific things I thought we needed to do now to move away from this economic mess.  My 5 in summary were: 1) Decrease the size of government and the influence and destructive power of multi-national corporations and I listed a number of specifics to begin to accomplish that. 2) Eliminate gerymandering and fix voting so that everyone's vote really counts. 3) Eliminate the Fed. 4) Eliminate WTO and the World Bank. 5) Start having serious discussions about better living through less stuff not rifts into conspiracy theories and demagoguery.  There was no effort to create a utopia and I could care less if you don't agree with any or some of them.

The above barely scratches the surface in dismantling so we can re-build something better.  There is no force or war in the above unless you imagine that the banksters and the elderly are going to take up arms when they loose some of their bennies from the government and that we have become so rigid that we can not democracticly change our government?  But I don't see how we even remotely get to what you think would be your utopia if we don't do some of what I suggest as a start.  Nothing in there rounded up or forced anyone to do anything other than adapt to less, which we are all going to have to do either voluntarily or nature will force us to.  Now if you imagine that your utopia of everyone just doing their thing with no government and no one telling anybody what to do is achievable in the near future, I would certainly like to hear how you think we could get there without any of the above and without a civil war that would make the last one look like a skirmish as change occurred too fast and the government refused to go quietly into that good night.  Specifics please.  It is relatively easy to take pot shots at folks who do make specific suggestions and paint them with motives that are only imaginary.  A favorite tactic of demagoguery.

I know it was long but if you are interested in a meaningful discussion, please re-read and let's actually discuss specifics.

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RoseHip
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Great parenting video

While watching this video I couldn't help but notice the similarities that being king is like raising children.

Rose

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Then I am officially apologizing

@ Arthur, having read many of your posts, I thought there might be something there that I was getting.  It apparently is much harder to communicate in writing without benefit of facial views than any of us can imagine.  These really large cycles are overwhelming and hard to ignore, unless someone already is inclined to the fetal position with head nicely tucked.  And I agree they are the driving issues we are facing, not Mr. Howe's generational cycles.  Much has been made of Howe's cycles, I guess because he forecasted a crisis 20 years ago and has proven correct.  And while I find his research to be helpful in looking at history and the present and understanding how we collectively respond, it isn't the grand answer folks seem to be looking for.  As others have pointed out, now he seems to be interpreting things in ways that aren't necessarily grounded in reality.  Maybe because his role as a consultant means he generally can't feed the really bad stuff to his clients.  Been there, done that.

I would really like to hear your expansion on my suggestions.  We have got to get past the current lightweight dialogue that serves no useful purpose and get clear on where we need to go, as a nation and a world.  If not, the vacuum will be filled, likely with more of the same x2 and that scares me even more than where we are right now.  I'm a practical person.  And have worked as a change agent for many years.  While it is nice to have a vague, lovely picture of the end point, we live now and must start making changes now that move us toward a culture more in balance with the earth we are on.

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correction

That would be that I "wasn't" getting.  Apparently it is hard to type correctly as well.

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Turnings

jdye51, I love Hari Seldon and the Foundation Trilogy. As a very young teen Isaac Asimov formed my first attempts to think about history and life and philosophy.  The Dominican Fathers took on the formal job a little later and dragged me kicking and complaining through formal philosophy, logic, language and history.  I did not appreciate it at the time but both Asimov and the Dominicans taught me how to think and to annalyse the world around me.  Together they gave me a gift that far too few people are given in school today.

I have read Howe's book.  I raises some interesting points that I think can help us understand society and history.  Part of what he speaks about is rooted in biology.  Eighty years is roughly a human life span.  New generations appear as people reach their twenties and begin to have children.

In my own life I am presently accompanied on the journey by my elderly parents, my children and my grandchildren (who are just reaching the age of voicing their own views and opinions).  Each of these generations had a very different life experience.  From my parents great depression. WWII upbringing, to my wife and I in the cold war, Vietnam, racial and sexual equality struggles, to my own childrens' well off suburban, 911, rally round the country experience, to my grandchildren growing up in increasingly troubled economic times.  Each of the generations in my own house have very different views of the world based partley on what was occuring around them when they were growing up. 

I believe Howe shows us how this influences not just indvidual families and groups but the society as a whole.  Does this answer the questions, or resolve the issues confronting us?  No.  But I believe it does give and insight as to why it is so hard to form a consensus as to what needs to happen and how to get there.  In addition to all the political, social and religious differences in society there are also these underlying, almost biological, separate generational ways of understanding the world.

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Wisewoman and JTWalsh.

Wisewoman: Your apology was neither earned nor deserved. You have nothing to apologise for. The fault is mine and this poor medium of communication.

JT Walsh: I am glad that I don't have to lug all the Asimov books that I have read around with me. He had a phenomenal mind. I wonder what he would have made of our present circumstances?

At the Cold Fusion conference in Daejeong Korea I caused quite a stir as no-one could believe that I was who I said I was. Therefore they ambushed me with the microphone, an instrument that I wield awkwardly.

I spluttered something along the lines that Isaac Asimov used to digest the findings at the frontiers of science and present the nub of the discoveries in such a way that the general layman could understand. I said that I was hoping not to fill his shoes, but to stand in them.

Wisewoman: I see the situation thus. As humans escaping from Africa we have had the advantage of moving on into virgin territory. Since the time of the Vikings there has been no more virgin land and so the game changed. Now we treat lands ocuppied by others as virgin if our technologies are superior. This is how we are made. It is our modus operandi.

Unless we find more Virgin land we will continue this process of conquest by superior technologies. Even if we revert back to bows and arrows and horseback skirmishes, the same rule will apply.

The idea of an agrarian solution is a myth. Why stop there? Why not become stone age hunter-gathers?

I do not have the stomach to exterminate another people, nor do I wish others to exterminate my beautiful grandchildren.

So if the path is not back, surely it must be forward. We have to find fresh truely Virgin land. So in a typically dictatorial and dogmatic Boomer fashion I will place these ideas in front of you again.

Read my Sci-fi story. It is all laid out for you right there.

The way back is gated by horror. We have only one way, and that is forward.

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Governemnt = Force = Violence

ptwisewoman wrote:

@rhare, did you actually read my post?

Yes I did read your post very carefully before I responded.  I found it filled with lots of good things, but like many people who are well intentioned, but simply pushing along tyranny by a different group.

ptwisewoman wrote:

I was asked for 5 specific things I thought we needed to do now to move away from this economic mess.  My 5 in summary were:

1) Decrease the size of government and the influence and destructive power of multi-national corporations and I listed a number of specifics to begin to accomplish that.

Excerpts from your original post:

ptwisewoman wrote:
  • Big government isn’t the problem.  Big government married and dictated to by Big business is the problem.
  • Pass a constitutional amendment
  • We don’t need several food programs for people who are in poverty.  Just one, covers only food, consistent across regions and not forever.
  • Any assistance is accompanied with job training...
  • Also part of this is minimum wage being high enough that the working poor don’t need assistance.
  • I would rather pay for family planning than food stamps.

So what we have here, is we don't need big government to do the things we do now, but we still want government to take from others to provide the things I want. wink What if I don't want to give up my labor to help people in poverty or assistance in job training or family planning?  What if I don't agree with your methods or those of the government?

The point is, we have large corporate controlled government (fascism) because we give power to governments to force the will of one group onto another.  Socialism is the same thing, just with a different group being oppressed.

How about we take that power away from a government and let individuals control their own destiny.  You want assistance for those in poverty, then convince me to voluntarily "give" the results of my labor - not via force.

ptwisewoman wrote:

Re-structure the tax system.  Corporate flat tax at a competitive rate (to be actually debated but I think somewhere around 12-15% would be a good place to start), no incentives, no subsidies, no write-offs.  Personal tax rates decreased so that SSI and tax rates combined are equal to actual (not effective) tax rates now at all levels, no subsidies, no write-offs, and no incentives.  Non-earned income should be taxed the same as earned income.  No deductions for more than 2 children.

Once again, just saying government should force compliance but with a different set of rules.  How about no stealing from people?  How about no taxes, but voluntary contributions?  You want me to support some program then convince me it's in my best interest.  Do you not see your still saying "you need to live my way", it's just better because it's how I think it should be done.    Do you not voluntarily support things with your money and time that you believe are necessary?  Why do you not think others would do so without violence?

ptwisewoman wrote:

Pass a law that gives corporations only 3 opportunities to break the law or create major pollution problems by any person in the corporation at the decision-making level.  Once they hit three, their corporation charter is revoked.  No discussion.

Why 3?  If you happen to be one of those affected why does the corporation get 2 free passes?  How about you just have a legal system that protects property rights.  These type of laws have a tendency to go awry, just look at Oil Polution Act of 1990.

ptwisewoman wrote:

Create a firewall between corporations and political appointments that actually closes the revolving door.

More laws, how about eliminating the reason corporations and individuals are drawn to goverment power?  It's because they can use government to gain special favors or gain advantage over competitors.   Take away the power of government "force" and you will not have to have laws like this since there would be no incentive to control government.

ptwisewoman wrote:

Re-structure Medicare making it a basic policy.  Supplemental policies can’t pay more than half of the 20% or deductible.  Eliminate fee for service throughout the system not just for Medicare which means re-structuring health care and finding a meaningful way to ensure everyone has basic coverage.

Yet more, let's change it to my way.  All you've done is say "my way would be better", but I'm still going to force you to comply.  Why should I be forced to contribute to any of this?  You want everyone to have basic coverage, then set up a charity and convince me to contribute.  If you think this is very important then I'm sure many others will as well.   If I was a charity and I could force you to give me money, how careful of a steward for those funds would I be?

ptwisewoman wrote:

Re-structure SSI.  Other...

More of the same.

ptwisewoman wrote:

Close most of the military bases overseas, stop trying to be police for the world and stop bullying everyone else.  Stop unbidded contracts, especially in military and state department procurement.

But bullying people here at home is okay?   How much war mongering do you think would occur if you weren't forced to contribute?

ptwisewoman wrote:

Eliminate the gerrymandering..

Again, get rid of the ability for government to steal or force you to comply and you get rid of the incentive for this type of crap.

Peace occurs when you aren't trying to force your views onto others or steal from them for your behalf (whether well intentioned or not).

All of this comes down to are we going to live in a voluntary society, or are we going to simply keep passing control around?  I'm guessing that if we look at the cycles Howe describes it might correlate to the amount of government control forced upon citizens.  Just look at the crisis and war - they correspond to the height of government control over a population.  When one group pushes just a bit to hard and war breaks out.

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In all fairness

I asked the question - it sorta required a response using a 'wide brush'. 

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Thank you for the massive quoting with little input

@rhare, we live in a democracy where people who bother to vote should have input.  I assume you fall in that category, whether or not you indulge.  In this kind of system, we should discuss (actually suggest real alteratives and find compromise not demagogue and focus on some distant future) and vote and the majority wins.  Hence one of my top five things to do now includes fixing our sick voting system so we can take back more control of this disfunctional and bloated government.

I was asked for some of my suggestions for now not some distant future where neither governments nor corporations nor greedy people nor people with needs to dictate to others exist any longer, and I gave them.  I don't give a flying flip about being in charge of anything other than my little piece of property, forcing my will on others, or trying to have a conversation with someone who has such a case of blinder disease they can't get pass their limited view of utopia and no one else's views are pertinent.  If you want to try to go to an all voluntary society right now, tell me how we do that without causing so much chaos and discontinuity that we wind up with all that bloodshed you've accused me of wanting to supposedly enforce my will.  Come on, man, get off your high horse and try to actually have a discussion.

Would I like a world where voluntary good behavior was the norm, yes I would.  Do I think we can get there by suddenly dismantling all government while leaving the existing corporations in the trans-national state they inhabit, NO, I don't.  Too many people, too many bad bahaviors, too many multi-national corporations, well armed governments who can't be overthrown without bloodshed, do I need to continue?  Government actually run by the people for now is the only way to bring multi-nationals under more control.  And yes, they need to be controlled or they will, along with their puppet governments we also don't have control over now, will drive us all to extinction.  If you want a fascist dictatorship where you don't get to have any say in how you live, dismantle government immediately and leave a vacuum for multi-nationals to fill.  And suddenly disconnecting people from what they have been counting on will start a civil war.  So can we move toward change without causing chaos and bloodshed?  I sincerely hope so because we are really screwed if we can't.  You seem intent on focusing on some lovely place far in the future while I'm trying to focus on right now and moving us, right now, in a different direction.

If you don't want to be in a society where we do care for each other and create major change without suddenly causing suffering that will spill over and impact all those who imagine they can protect themselves from it, I would really suggest a more isolated place for you to inhabit.  Because that will be the only way you will get there in your lifetime.

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bring back failure

To expand on the excellent points made by ptwisewoman, I see systemic removal of failure, whether from the business side of things or the human/sociological side as being key to our current predicament. Lobbying, cronyism, subsidies and bailouts have made a joke of true capitalism, enabling the greed model to thrive. Irresponsible lifestyles have contributed to the over-burdened healthcare systems, with people getting medical bail-outs to their poor decisions, only to keep on doing more of the same. The educational system does not educate in a meaningful way, graduating millions of ill-prepared, debt laden people who have little in the way of real life skills.

We must allow failure to happen. We must allow businesses and people who do not thrive to die. We must allow people who do not take responsibility for their lives to face the consequences. There, I said it. An elephant in the room. An admission that it really is survival of the fittest. How will we decide which, who, and when?

When our healthcare systems were first devised, the premise was basic healthcare for everyone. The problem is, as time went on and technology evolved, "basic" was never defined, to the point that "basic" now covers things like cochlear implants, of which I am a happy recipient. To use this as an example, each cochlear implant performed in Canada costs between $50,000 and $100,000 dollars, depending on the patient. Other than the healthcare premiums which I pay monthly, which have averaged about 60 bucks per month over my working life, I paid nothing for this. The rest was paid by the taxpayer. Thank you! This more than generous system will never see me bitching about my monthly premium. That being said, I am sure that Tommy Douglas, the founder of the Canadian healthcare system, would roll over in his grave if he saw what was being funded now. And so it goes. We keep on inventing new treatments and methodologies without having any inkling of how we are going to pay for them. (Ditto for things like infrastructure.) And with this wave of babydoomers (thanks Arthur!) entering retirement, one just knows they are going to demand more and better treatments to extend their lives as far as possible, with as much quality as possible.

Our healthcare system is the product of a civilized society that places human rights near if not at the top of the totem pole. If one were to truly subscribe to the survival of the fittest model, then this has meant saving lives that should not be saved and helping people who should not be helped. And yes, that means people like me should not be given these expensive medical procedures to help them. We have to live with the cards we are dealt. I was puttering along through life deaf prior to my implant. Sure it was a tough go, but I was doing okay. I could have kept on going the way I was. I am sure that many will say "ya, easy to say now that you have had it done and paid for". This is true. I am so fortunate and so grateful. But I also acknowledge that I am (unwittingly) part of the problem, and that others, all of you, and those who will come after us, have paid for my artificial hearing, as well as all of the other fantastic things that we can and are doing on a regular basis. Where do we draw the line? Once again, it often comes down to needs vs. wants. How many surgeries and procedures are done and paid by healthcare that are more on the want side, and therefore avoidable? But to add another side to it, studies have shown that giving a deaf person a cochlear implant can save up to a million dollars in other social spending, such as specialized education, interpreters, assisted living etc. Sounds like a good cost/benefit tradeoff. So again, where do we draw the line and how do we decide who gets what done and when?

Humans are not very good at accepting their mortality. Our healthcare system is evidence of this, with extreme measures being taken to extend life. "First do no harm" has been the model for medical care. And assisted suicide and helping/allowing people to die with dignity has been the political hot potato avoided at all costs. And of course there is the abortion debate, which I believe is a banned discussion topic on this site. I mention it only in the big picture context of those difficult conversations that society must have. We are going to have to decide who will live and who will die. That we have to make that decision at all is of our own doing - we put ourselves in this position by creating the technology to give us the choice. We have achieved the ultimate power. How will we use it? Will we do all we can to ensure everyone survives as long as possible even though we don't have the resources to support them? Or will we admit to ourselves that there are natural cycles of life and death that we are in actuality defying?

These are very difficult decisions, but from my perspective they will have to be made sooner rather than later. As with many of the tough decisions we face, we can start to do these things now, on our terms, or allow things to run the course and let it all unfold as it will. I prefer the former. And that is saying that I accept that perhaps in eras gone by, as a disabled person who would have been a burden to the tribe, I would have been thrown out with the bath water. It would have been the right thing to do.

Jan

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it cannot, so it will not

Large governments, be they communist, socialist, democracies, republics or whatever, are depended on (a) cheap fuel and (b) fractional reserve banking.

Both are about to go the way of the dodo. We cannot afford large government programs now, and are not going to "grow our way" out of the massive debt we are in to afford them later. There will be a reset. The solutions that involve community and local resources will be more viable that central planning of any sort, simply because of transportation issues if nothing else.

One of the highlights of the above interview for me is the forecast  of a return to extended families and communities. And just because we will need each other to survive does not mean that will be a bad thing. Your tax dollars, which get half-siphoned off to pay bureaucrats, will never provide love and friendship, trust and community. While I am of course not suggesting such programs be immediately abolished, inflation continues to make those benefits worth less and less.

I will say this. Those who substitute impersonal taxes for volunteerism and one-on-one charity are leaning on a sharp stick that will not support them Or their communities. All of you: what have YOU,  you personally, done for local disadvantaged folks? I mean recently and I do not mean by paying taxes. Let me give you an example of local systems we will need to transistion to.

Yesterday my husband and I went over to our nextdoor neighbors--by request--to fix their computer. There are four generations living in that home, and the computer was needed. Two family members used it for school, including the grandmother and grandson, and the daughter worked on it from home. Great grandmother, in her 90s, was not stuck in some impersonal nursing home but was being watched by them all. We reached out to this family when the water company shut off their water last summer, providing water from our well, and they now consider us non-judgmental friends. We took another old, broken computer of theirs for parts as compensation, which was not just a face-saving gesture since hubby fixes legacy machines for his customers.

My experience is that government assistance is somewhat annonymous, and that those in need can be proud (God knows I was) and not let you know they need help. Keep an eye out and be a friend to those in genuine need. Let them do you a good turn next time: that's what community is all about, and that is what we will have to fall back on when the going gets tough and the annonymous monies fail.

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Bring back failure... with a caveat

Westcoastjan wrote:

We must allow failure to happen. We must allow businesses and people who do not thrive to die. We must allow people who do not take responsibility for their lives to face the consequences. There, I said it. An elephant in the room. An admission that it really is survival of the fittest. How will we decide which, who, and when?

While I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment of bringing back failure, taking that to confirmation that "it really is survival of the fittest" is just wildly off the mark, in my opinion.  That's the Victorian outlook of scarcity and extreme individualism that has gotten us to the point where we currently sit, surrounded by predicaments on all sides.  I think that the context in which we look at failure is perhaps even more important than bringing back the possibility of failure itself.

The reason we need to bring back failure is that it is how true learning happens.  We learn by making mistakes and adjusting our approach.  This is one of the prime tenets of permaculture -- gaining and learning from feedback.  It doesn't matter whether you're a toddler learning to walk, or an adult trying to start a business.  Failure, no multiple failures, are going to be a central part of the process.  They're the world providing you feedback that what you are doing isn't working the way you want, and if you want things to work better, you need to adjust your approach and try again.

By framing failure in the terms of Social Darwinism, it creates the dynamic where people actually become more fearful of it.  By framing it in terms of being a necessary part of adaptation and improvement, then it loses some of that baggage.

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Demogogue - a leader championing the cause of the common people

ptwisewoman wrote:
Thank you for the massive quoting with little input

Wow, thank you for you listening to what I was trying to say and assume I was just attacking you.  This is exactly to my point.  Do you not understand that most of the solutions you propose (what I was trying to point out) require force of government to make people comply with what you think is right?

ptwisewoman wrote:
In this kind of system, we should discuss ... and vote and the majority wins.  Hence one of my top five things to do now includes fixing our sick voting system so we can take back more control of this disfunctional and bloated government.

We have exactly what you want, the majority wins.  This is what happens when you let the majority force the minority to comply.  We have a system in which everyone votes themselves favors at others expense.  It's so much easier to do that than live within your means.  You get to steal via proxy, just some happen to play the game better than others and get rich.

What I'm suggesting is that we get rid of the game.  No more forcing your will on others via government.  Instead if you want change, you have to change yourself, be an example, and talk to others to convince them if you have a better solution.  Government and democracy is the opposite of that. 

ptwisewoman wrote:
If you want to try to go to an all voluntary society right now, tell me how we do that without causing so much chaos and discontinuity that we wind up with all that bloodshed you've accused me of wanting to supposedly enforce my will.  Come on, man, get off your high horse and try to actually have a discussion.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

The first step is to stop making new laws and start repealing many that we have.  The answer is to start dismantling the things that limit individual choice and responsibility.  So let's take your list and see what alternatives their might be:

  • The Fed - don't have to abolish it, all you have to do is get rid of the legal tender laws and penalty taxes that limit what you can use as money.  If the Fed can provide a system that works, no problem, but choice by the populace will ultimately solve the problem.  We don't need to transfer that power to the government so they can be just as abusive as the Fed.    What's the difference between the Fed stealing via inflation versus the government doing so?
  • Medicare, Medicaid, SSN - Dismantle them.   While people are dependent on them, how can you justify that the young have to give up their lives to pay the old.  The people who voted to steal from the future, dont' have a right to do so.
  • FDA, FDIC, DOE - gone.   
  • Dept. of Education - Gone immediately.  There is no reason for the Federal government to be involved it what is a stricly local/parental matter.

ptwisewoman wrote:
Do I think we can get there by suddenly dismantling all government while leaving the existing corporations in the trans-national state they inhabit, NO, I don't.  Too many people, too many bad bahaviors, too many multi-national corporations, well armed governments who can't be overthrown without bloodshed, do I need to continue?

Note, I never said all government, and I didn't say immediately (well I kind of did above).  So you mean our well armed government that we can't overthrow without bloodshed is one we don't want to dismantle? 

Do you not even consider that those evil multinationals only exist because our government keeps them in power by limiting our choices.  Just look at all the recent legislation on behalf of Monsanto.  How about our use of force to keep oil flowing from the middle east to keep our energy prices cheap so we can have international trade instead of local production?   How about all the distortions caused by the Fed that allow the big boys to borrow cheap or free.   All these distortions via the force of government are what allow the big corporations to florish without providing a good product or service. 

ptwisewoman wrote:

You seem intent on focusing on some lovely place far in the future while I'm trying to focus on right now and moving us, right now, in a different direction.

But your not moving in a different direction.  You are advocating more of the same.  Perhaps you should ask yourself why my points have brought such repulsion on your part that you have chosen to attack rather than discuss.  Chris M. says this is what happens when you challenge a belief.
 

ptwisewoman wrote:
If you don't want to be in a society where we do care for each other and create major change without suddenly causing suffering that will spill over and impact all those who imagine they can protect themselves from it, I would really suggest a more isolated place for you to inhabit.  Because that will be the only way you will get there in your lifetime.

I choose to try and get people to think about what government is.  To understand that government is force against others on your behalf.  Is it necessary?  To what degree is it necessary.  Unless you actually think about that how do you not fall into the same trap as all those before you.  

Anytime you sit around saying "there should be a law" you really need to ask why?  Are you simply trying to force others to your way of thinking and using force via proxy of government?

On top of all this, we are going to probably collapse, because people aren't willing to seriously question what we must have.   In order to even remotely get back into balance we would need to cut government dramatically, maybe 80% to live within our means, particularly once we loose reserve currency status.  So yes, discussions like this where we discuss what should the role of government be in our lives is important.

ptwisewoman wrote:

But I don't see how we even remotely get to what you think would be your utopia if we don't do some of what I suggest as a start.

Don't get me wrong, some of your suggestions might be good, but I also think many of them are just throwing a band-aid on the problems instead of looking at the root cause.

ptwisewoman wrote:

It is relatively easy to take pot shots at folks who do make specific suggestions and paint them with motives that are only imaginary.  A favorite tactic of demagoguery.

Demagogue - just another ad hominem attack word used by so many people when they don't want to discuss things that are against their view.  However I'll take the alternate meaning and accept it as a compliment:

a leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times

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Current shifts are epochal as well as generational

While I haven't yet read The Fourth Turning, I've heard enough interviews with Howe to be familiar with his overall thesis.  And this interview was a good way of slightly updating it in terms of current events -- but didn't really update anything on substance.  And that's OK, because the views of Strauss and Howe on generational cycles deserve a wide audience because they have merit.

However....

Where Howe lost me was when he tried to project his generational cycles into the future, namely because his views became a contradictory mess.  While looking at history through a cyclical lens, his projections into the future are pure positivism -- that the future will be, for the most part, "more of the same".  Greater government intrusion and oversight (Sim City), greater proliferation of hand-held technology like smart phones, etc.  It is here that I think that Howe's arguments fall pretty much flat on their face, because he completely ignores the relationship between available energy and complexity.  In this vein, a much more useful guidebook is Joseph Tainter's "The Collapse of Complex Societies".

But all that's OK, because in the end I can use my own brain to sort out the items from Howe's argument that I find useful and to toss out what I find to be the chaff.  And I do think that some of the most valuable insights he had regarded the way that people want to be a part of something again, of a real community -- even if I think he's off the mark in seeing wider proliferation of communication technology (if the declining energy base even allows it) as a positive force in that regard (I think it's actually negative).

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Excellent points

@westcoastJan, I agree with you that failure needs to become an option, at all levels of society.  Your points on the health care system are meaningful because they are personal.  There is much wrong with the existing system, it is a poster child for how not to create a system that helps people manage their health without creating poverty for everyone except the people at the top of the pyramind.  While people do need to take responsibility for their health and for paying for it when they seek assistance, it will take some time to move people back in that direction.  I meet people every day who have come to believe that they have no ability to know what is best for their body and have to take everything a doctor says as gospel.  If we stop all effort of the government to pay for health care for anyone; veterans, poor, seniors we will not have a system that will suddenly become affordable.  We will just have a system for the wealthy.

@Wendy, while I agree with your statement that big governments are addicted to fossil fuels and fractional banking and that in time those will fail and therefore big governments will, do we just wait for that to happen?  And if we wait does it then get easier to deal with the aftermath or might it be easier to try to transition the system down toward where it needs to be as quickly as we can while we still have something like a democracy to work in.  As to the question of what have I (since I'm one of the folks here) done lately for people who have less than me, I will say I give from 5-10% a month to local and national charities and I provide some of my homegrown produce to a neighbor that distributes to some of our neighbors who have reached the point of not being able to garden much.  And I regularly share garden production with a neighbor who I know doesn't have much.  It is just sharing because neither they nor I see them as needing charity.  I do think people should voluntarily do many things but again we have forgotten how to do that with dignity and caring and I believe we can move in that direction with some transition toward the government having a much smaller role and not see major starvation if we move without massive change all at once but make some decisions to move and then do it.  And I agree that multi-generational households are a good thing.  I live in one and consider it a blessing every day.

@Christopher, yes, failure is a vital part of learning and we have to create the space to do that in our personal lives, our communities and at the national level.  Gardening is a great way to learn to adapt and embrace failure because it just doesn't always do what I want.

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Charity (voluntary) or Government (forced)

Christopher A wrote:

While I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment of bringing back failure, taking that to confirmation that "it really is survival of the fittest" is just wildly off the mark, in my opinion.

So, if you saw someone injured or in need would you help them? Voluntarily?  If you say yes, why do you assume that we have to use force to get the same outcome?  Are you the only good person and everyone else has to have a government force them to be good?

When you are forced to do something are you happy about it?  How does it compare to when you do it because you want to out of compasion? 

Goverment programs that aim to help the poor or disadvantage end up creating dependence by those who receive the aid and resentment by those forced to pay for it.  You are much more humble when you receive freely given aid, since it's clearly charity versus when a government confiscates it from others on your behalf.  People begin to feel entitled because of the disconnect, it's not someone elses money, it's the governments.  Those that would be charitable also begin to disconnect, why do I need to help others, I'm already paying the government to do so. 

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Regarding the use of legal means to curb corporations

One thing that I think many people miss when they come up with new legal means to curb the influence of corporations is that corporations themselves WOULD NOT EXIST were it not for laws.  They are legal fictions, and if the laws supporting them were simply removed, then many, or even most of them would almost immediately cease to exist.

Perhaps the most earth-shaking effect of removing the legal protections for corporations would be in the area of liability.  Corporate officers and board members would be directly culpable for the business decisions made on their behalf.  In a society that actually concerned itself with matters of right or wrong (instead of profit and expediency), then that would likely result in many of those officers and board members being faced with banishment or the noose or guillotine.

And from a minarchist/anarchist view, such steps would return the locus of decision-making to the local community.  While I am not under the naive pretense that this would be nirvana, I do believe that it would be a better fit than what we have right now -- a system where those wreaking the most destruction on people and the earth are able to insulate themselves from the effects of those decisions.  It would at least move us back to a system where decisions are largely made by those with real skin in the game.

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Arthur

I was just finishing a post and lost power for a moment or two due to a thunderstorm, so -

To summarize:

Arthur - if you are referring to another planet as virgin territory, I have to ask whether we have the right to move our contagion onto another world? Because we've done such a good job here.

I don't want to go backwards either, but we are heading in that direction. When I fantasize it is about some kind of new energy, like zero point energy, that would provide basically limitless energy with no pollution. It would change everything. We would go from being preoccupied with survival to having the breathing room to focus on everything else. We would need to restructure our societal institutions like government to reflect this. Resource wars would subside and we would be able to pause long enough to examine who we are and where we are heading. We might look more kindly on one another if we aren't competing for finite energy. We could redefine what it is to be human. We might have a chance.

But, right now, that is a fantasy. Our reality is grim and getting grimmer. I worry that we have run out of time and our options are dwindling with each day that passes. Without a major game-changer, we are proceeding along the same path that has gotten us into trouble. Nothing has changed in a significant enough way to turn this ship around. The inertia is just too great. By the time those aboard realize we're taking on water, it will be too late to save the ship. And we may find any lifeboats have holes in them too.

Failure is how we learn but will we learn in time to prevent our extinction? Have we caused too much damage to overcome now? Bees are dying and in the U.S. we are still allowing the corporations to make poisons that kill them because their short-term bottom line is more important than the bees we rely on for much of our food. How stupid is that?!

Off to clean the floors,

Joyce

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You're missing my point, rhare

My point is that "survival of the fittest" doesn't really exist in the natural world, except in a sense of absolute individualism.  And even then it's not entirely accurate, since whether or not a single organism survives is dependent as much on luck as its "fitness".  Your post is projecting things on to my statement that I never said, nor even implied.

What I'm talking about here is what Charles Eisenstein calls "the story of the people."  Our current story is one of extreme individualism, separation, and a war against the biosphere in attempts to "control" it.  It is through that lens that any discussion of "failure" makes a leap to "survival of the fittest".  As a permaculture practitioner, I agree with Charles that we need a new story, because the current one isn't working.  If we start moving toward a story that embraces connectedness, individuality within a group, service, and working with nature as a partner, then the notion of "failure" takes on a whole different meaning.  Failure isn't something ultimate, something to be run from (or, in the current climate, fixed or prevented).  It's just feedback letting us know we need to change our approach.

That's it.  That's all I wanted to say.  I wasn't denigrating the notion of bringing back failure -- I'm actually very much in favor of it.  I also wasn't saying anything about government, state coercion, or any of the other things that you projected on to my argument.

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Sorry....

Christopher A. wrote:

You're missing my point, rhare

Your right I did, sorry.  I was in the middle of responding to ptwisewoman and my commentary bled over. blush

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Sorry, but for guessing into

Sorry, but for guessing into the future T4T nuts it.  The 2008 crisis - they were off by like, a year or two.  And more - give it a read, tell us what you think.  I think you'll enjoy it, if not, tell us why.

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more thoughts

With regard to allowing failure to happen and survival of the fittest, I am framing this in the lens of having the courage to say "enough", in order that resources may be channelled to those who are better positioned to be contributors to the ongoing survival of our society. For example, we know that most health care expenditures are made in the final 10 years of life. Is it reasonable to fund things like hip and knee replacements for the elderly? Is it not more prudent to channel those funds elsewhere, to be used for the care of people who are still contributing societal members? I feel like I should be struck by a lightening bolt for saying that, however this is what I am alluding do when I say we have to make choices. We are trying to do and afford everything for everyone, which is not reasonable. Instead of these heroic efforts to keep people going regardless of age, can we make them comfortable and simply accept that their body is breaking down as nature intended it to? Must we manage everything?

Re survival of the fittest, I do understand what has been said in response to my earlier post. I believe that at the most basic level that is truly what governs us. It is raw, and primitive, and we don't like to think in those terms. But we are animals. In the predator/prey world it is always the weak and the old that get eaten first. In the plant world the noxious, dominant weeds take over the more passive flowers or vegetables. In our lives, if we let nature take its course, the weak and the old would not survive as long as they do with us trying to control everything. I believe that is where we have erred (stike me down again!) It seems like everything we try to manage we screw up. There are reasons for pandemics and plagues, droughts and floods. But we humans with our so called superior intellect have found ways to mitigate these things. But in doing so, we have buggered up other things. For every action there is a reaction. We have done some good things, however they are clearly outweighed by the damages that we now face. I often wonder what the world population would be if nature had been allowed nature to take its couse without any human intervention. An off the wall thought for sure.

I am not saying we have to start down a path of getting rid of the elderly, or make no effort to save sick premature babies. What I am saying is that we are using finite resources, with not enough to go around for everyone or everything, in order to defy what happens in nature. Something has to give, and it only makes sense for that something to be allocated to the members of society who will be carrying the torch going forward.

Jan

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Not fight for benefits? Really?

It remains to be seen how people will react to losing social security and medicare benefits as they get more squeezed and lose their health. Yes, at some point the boomers will cross over to senior citizenship whether they see themselves that way or not. Sooner or later age and sickness catches up to you.

Recently a story came up re: the economy about people renting lawnmowers and other tools from eachother so they don't have to each go out and buy these things...When people get squeezed they come up with a new organization. There may go that bottom line....

The reason why many haven't retired is because they can't afford to and or they are still going strong and like what they do. I saw many of my father's friends who were well off refuse to retire because they had the stamina and they felt stimulated by their work. Not all can say that though.

As no fan of Peter Peterson, I'm afraid the privatizing or cutting off of these benefits we paid into will exact a huge price and it's something I wouldn't give up so fast. Especially in lieu of those wealthy well-placed indivduals who are receiveing all kinds of breaks from the government. In the face of human suffering how can magic words like, "They are talented and innovators" stand up?

Yes, I agree that we suffer from a financialized economy based on unlimited growth in a finite world. That will certainly butt up against reality, but I wouldn't give up my benefits so fast...not while some are living high on the hog of government while pretending they don't believe in government.

I say to the elite, practice what you preach. We won't talk until you do!

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BeingThere
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Boomers

It remains to be seen how people will react to losing social security and medicare benefits as they get more squeezed and lose their health. Yes, at some point the boomers will cross over to senior citizenship whether they see themselves that way or not. Sooner or later age and sickness catches up to you.

Recently a story came up re: the economy about people renting lawnmowers and other tools from eachother so they don't have to each go out and buy these things...When people get squeezed they come up with a new organization. There may go that bottom line....

The reason why many haven't retired is because they can't afford to and or they are still going strong and like what they do. I saw many of my father's friends who were well off refuse to retire because they had the stamina and they felt stimulated by their work. Not all can say that though.

As no fan of Peter Peterson, I'm afraid the privatizing or cutting off of these benefits we paid into will exact a huge price and it's something I wouldn't give up so fast. Especially in lieu of those wealthy well-placed indivduals who are receiveing all kinds of breaks from the government. In the face of human suffering how can magic words like, "They are talented and innovators" stand up?

Yes, I agree that we suffer from a financialized economy based on unlimited growth in a finite world. That will certainly butt up against reality, but I wouldn't give up my benefits so fast...not while some are living high on the hog of government while pretending they don't believe in government.

I say to the elite, practice what you preach. We won't talk until you do!

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