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Neil Howe: What To Expect From The Fourth Turning We're Now In

More centralized control, crisis & conflict
Sunday, March 15, 2015, 11:58 AM

Neil Howe demographer and co-authour of the book The Fourth Turning returns to the podcast this week. In our prior interview with him, we explored his study of generational cycles ("turnings") in America which reveal predictable social trends that recur throughout history and warn of a coming crisis (a "fourth turning") based on this research.

Fourth turnings are characterized by a growing demand for social order, yet supply of it remains weak. The emergence of the surveillance state, a perpetual war machine, increased intervention in the markets by the central planners, greater government control of critical systems like health care and the Internet -- all of these are classic signs that we are well into a fourth turning now:

In the fourth turning, the supply of order is still absent that the demand for order grows. So we now have a demand for order and no supply. That creates the unusual dynamics of a fourth turning -- kind of like we had in the 1930’s. People suddenly feel that no one is in control and that enormous events are overtaking their society which no one of leadership age has any idea how to confront or how to manage. And it goes without saying today we look up to Gen Xers and Boomers and we see leaders who couldn’t organize their way out of a shoe box. I live in the Washington DC area and the government and Congress literally does nothing. All they do is argue and fight and nothing gets done in this city. It's amazing, and a great testament to the power of institutional inertia that things keep moving forward in some manner. There is this great unsettled feeling we have that there is a rudderless ship that we’re on where no one knows where it is going. We see dangers that we seem paralyzed and unable to respond to.

History’s fourth turnings are full of Hobson’s choices, full of grim choices. I think that the what the Fed got into -- back in 2000 as well 2009, 2010 and then with QE -- they got into that with a feeling of they had no choice; this is crisis intervention. And crisis intervention became a habit. And ultimately we got here not because anyone kind of wanted it to happen, we just ended up here. And this is the same way it was back in the 1930’s: the same thing was true about the New Deal. The New Deal was nothing but a thorough perversion of market choices. The New Deal was nothing if not for the picking of winners and losers throughout the economy. Throughout the world at that time, that was an era of competitive devaluation. Global trade shrank down to a fraction of what it was back in the 20’s. Each country was making a decision which felt to it like survival, and nations were taking enormous collectivist measures with their economies as we were here in our own economy. And that is where we are today. I guess what I am saying is I am not surprised we are at this point. I just think that the full consequences of it have not yet been fully perceived, and I think they will be when the financial markets ultimately reflect the damage that has been done to the economy as a whole. And I think that will happen probably over the next year and a half -- if it even takes that long

Also, I should point out just as an empirical fact that the vast majority of the total wars that have been fought have been fought in fourth turnings. That's a sobering thought. Certainly in American history :the American revolution, the Civil War, World War II -- those are all fourth turning events. Fourth turnings tend to lead to crisis that calls forth a period or an episode of total cohesive organized collective public effort in response to a crisis. That may not involve war; it may simply be an organized response to an economic crisis. Or it may be war in a somewhat different form. When you look around the world toda at the kind of global terror that we see in the world, we see forms of war which aren’t exactly the same as what we are used to in terms of earlier eras of war. It may be war, but war of a different nature, a different character. But what you can say is: the social feel will be very similar to what we have felt in previous periods of total war. 

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Neil Howe (51m:26s)

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. You know, we’re living through one of the most exceptional periods of human existence, defined on one side by remarkable technological advances and on the other side by ecological degeneration and resource depletion. Geopolitically, things have not been as tense as they are between the east and the west at any time in my entire lifetime. And though it is tempting to think of this time being different, it may not be. Not really. If history doesn't repeat itself, it sure does rhyme. History, if looked at correctly, is not names and dates strung together and embellished by the victors, but rather it has a structure, a structure that repeats. A grand motif that plays out over and over again but with different notes. And if one can understand this pattern, then one can better understand the times in which they live and how the future may unfold.

Today we are going to talk about generations and historical patterns, and we have invited back Neil Howe, an American historian, economist and demographer to discuss these historical patterns against current events. Now, he is best known for his work with William Strauss in social generations and generational cycles in American history including the book The Fourth Turning. Neil is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America, an acclaimed author and speaker. He is the nation’s leading thinker on today’s generations, who they are, what motivates them and how they will shape America’s future. Welcome, Neil. It is a real pleasure to have you back.

Neil Howe: Great to be here, Chris.

Chris Martenson: Well when we had you on before, we covered generational cycles and the fourth turning concept, and we’ll link to that earlier interview for those interested in that background. But just to set the stage for today, would you be willing to review the generational and social change theory for us all?

Neil Howe: Well, you know it is a way of looking at social change which is both familiar to people because in a way we do it all the time, but it is also unfamiliar and it is basically keeping in mind that as society moves on year by year, we all get older. It is really as simple as that. And I go to corporations all the time and talk to them about how are they forecasting how people in their 30s and 40s are going to behave, you know, 10 years from now. And they say "well we know everything about 40 year olds and 30 year olds and we have researched the whole history and we just project it forward. Thirty year olds 10 years from now, 30 year olds 20 years from now and so you know everything about 30 year olds." And then I say "well you know when I want to know about 30 year olds 10 years from now, I look at today’s 20 year olds." They look at me shocked. "You do what?" I say "well actually those are the people; they are going to be 10 years older." It sounds elementary; it sounds almost stupid, right? But it is amazing we never think this way when we look at history, when we look at the future.

When you look at time that way, if you have an age on the Y axis and time on the X axis, we all live in a diagonal line, right? Bill and I in our work used to call that the generational diagonal, and that is where we live. Any individual event is a vertical line thrust down through all of those diagonals, right? That is a point in time. But it hits us all differently depending on how old we are. And when we are young, history shapes us, shapes us in a certain way in our attitudes and behaviors, and then later on—maybe 30 or 40 years later—those same people, shaped a certain way, in turn shape history, right? So history both shapes us and it is the thing we shape as we get older. Both as leaders and as parents, right?

So that’s the circle and one of the things that we found in our work looking at history as a sequence of social generations—groups of people that are shaped by history a certain way—is that not only are generations very different and surprisingly even going way back in American history to the 17th and 18th century, people were actually aware of these generational differences. But these generations in their overall attitudes and behaviors tended to assume a certain collective personality that was not only different from each other but tended to recur in a certain kind of pattern. That is, certain kinds of generations tend to follow other generations. And we notice that this pattern was also linked to some of the broader patterns that we have seen in American history. The fact, for instance, that we have had these enormous cataclysmic events in our public life. The great crises, turning points in American history that affect politics, the economy, empire, the great total wars in our history are all in these eras. That these tend to occur about once every long human lifetime, right? You think of the wars of Spanish succession, then the American Revolution, then the Civil War, then World War II and the Great Depression and so on. And roughly halfway in between these great cataclysmic events has been the great cultural and religious awakenings of American history. And there is a reason for these patterns, these patterns are tightly integrated into this because different kinds of generations are either coming of age during one of these events and then subsequently the leaders and the senior people – the mid life parents and ultimately the senior leaders of America during the second one of these events. Looking at how that works out actually leads to a certain kind of choreography of history where we describe history as a sequence of seasonal moods which does recur.

So we look at four recurring types of generations each around 20 years long and associated with that are four recurring social moods which we call turnings. These are almost like seasons of a year which take about the length of a long human lifetime to repeat.

And as we probably went into last time, Chris, you know, we talked about the winter season in history is what we call the fourth turning, and it is the crisis era, right? And we estimated at that time and certainly still do that we probably entered that era in 2008. Each of these periods, each of these turnings, each of these moods can be dated. I mean you can kind of tell when you are entering it and when you are leaving it. And we thought that that—you know, it takes a little while sometimes for you to look back in history, right? To actually know when a date was, when a new generation comes along or when the social mood changes. But I feel pretty comfortable with that date and thus far we haven’t had much occasion to change it and I think we are well into that mood and I think the generational line up is pretty clear. Boomers are moving into the senior leadership position. Generation X, people born in the 1960s and 1970s are in the process of moving into mid life where they will be the hands on managers. And the new millennial generation is coming of age into young adulthood. They are about halfway into that phase of life right now, a little bit less than halfway in. They are the generation we first wrote about in our first book back in 1991 when we first gave them a name. Chris, we may have talked about that, our first awareness of Millenials. At that time when we were writing about them the oldest of them were only about eight years old back in 1991. But now, of course, they are the coming of age generation. Back in 1991 we were just beginning to learn about and for the first time talk about Generation X, which interestingly at that time hadn’t even been named yet. So there we are.

Chris Martenson: Well fantastic. Thanks for that. To put this in context, that crisis stage, it is about a 20 year chunk, right? I assume each one of these four turnings is about a 20 year period roughly. The period before that would have been the unraveling period. That would have sort of ended I guess in 2008.

Neil Howe: Yea, exactly.

Chris Martenson: So what characterizes that period? I want to try to understand how we understand where we are in crisis. So unraveling, what is that about?

Neil Howe: One way to think about this, Talcott Parsons said it perfect. He was a famous sociologist in the early post-war era. He had an interesting fourfold way of looking at social transitions, which I think actually is an interesting way of looking at turning shifts. At least one way of characterizing turning shifts. He said that at any given time there is a kind of a supply and demand for order in society. And that one way of thinking about a first turning which is like the American high, you know, the presidencies of Truman and Eisenhower and Kennedy. These were post crisis eras when individualism is weak and institutions are strong and we feel very good collectively about who we are. And in Talcott Parsons words, this is an era when the supply and demand for social order is very strong. In other words, there is order out there and people want it, right? And feel good about it.

The awakening era which is the second turning and of course a lot of us who call that experience from you know, the mid 60’s through the 70’s into the early 80’s that was the great consciousness revolution, what some historians call America’s fourth or fifth great awakening. Or Frances Fukiyama in a recent book actually called it The Great Disruption, this period of social and family experimentation. That period was a period in Talcott Parson’s words in which the supply of order was so strong but the demand for it was very weak, which is what created all the demonstrations and protests and people wanting to throw off social obligation and authority, right?

The third turning, which really began with the Reagan years and lasted on throughout obviously the 1990s and into the 00’s is a period in Parson’s words, when both the supply and demand for order is weak. Right? Nothing was very ordered. We are all happy being free agents and the kind of social entropy was high and everyone kind of loved it. So this is what we call I think when you use the word "unraveling," these are periods of kind of maximum social disorder in the sense of what we feel we need from society to help order our lives. A certain kind of generation comes of age during these eras we call a nomad archetype. Most recently of course, that was Generation X coming of age. During the roaring 20’s, by the way, that was the Lost Generation coming of age, and you and me can go back in American history—you find these particular kind of generations. You know a little bit wild, certainly a huge reputation for being young, risk takers. And that is what we associate with these eras.

The fourth turning, and to use Parson’s terminology, the supply of order is still absent that the demand for order grows. Right? So we now have a demand for order and no supply. That creates the unusual dynamics of a fourth turning. Kind of like we had in the 1930’s. People suddenly feel that no one is in control and that enormous events are overtaking their society which no one of leadership age has any idea how to confront or how to manage, right? And it goes without saying today we look up to Gen Xers and boomers and we see leaders who couldn’t organize their way out of a shoe box. I mean I live in the Washington DC area and government here—Congress literally does nothing. I mean all they do is argue and fight and nothing gets done in this city. And it is amazing, a great testament to the inertia, the power of institutional inertia that things keep moving forward in some manner. But I think there is this great unsettled feeling that we have that there is a rudderless ship that we’re on where no one knows where it is going. We see dangers that we seem paralyzed and unable to respond to them and I think no one feels that more than the millennial generation coming of age. I think that will be one of the great burdens they will have to manage as they move through this period.

Chris Martenson: I would like to get back to that in just a second because that is a really important topic for us and our audience. Before we do though—this idea of this institutional inertia in the sense that our leadership is being outpaced and outclassed by events. I want to explore that. So the US and Europe have, for reason that are not entirely transparent to this observer, decided to cast Russia out of the fold, demonize Putin personally, continually accuse Russia of invading Ukraine with hundreds of pieces of heavy equipment. 20,000 men, General Breedlove just said from Russia are in Ukraine, without ever providing a single piece of photographic evidence, which it must be noted is just child’s play for today’s satellites to detect such movements like that. So this breakdown in relations and even the breakdown of basic and reasonable diplomatic protocols—are these expected features of the crisis stage? Does this help us understand what is happening now?

Neil Howe: Yes. And you know, the idea of a global order, which used to be so strong for so many of us growing up most of our lives. Remember the whole period of the cold war. And then of course followed by this period of one hyper power, which was America seeming to preside over this new – kind of a very third turning notion, right? Of a world that would just be run by the dynamism of markets and that would solve everything. That was the end of history as I recall as the millennium came to a close. It has now been overtaken by this much grimmer scenario of power vacuums and failed states in the context of a multi polar world in which absolutely no one is in control and none of the major players terribly much trust anyone anymore. The last time we had this kind of scenario was the 1930’s. I mean this was the 1930’s. And in fact, many of the things we talk about now which is competitive devaluations, right? Which is, I mean, that is a script taken from the 30’s.

In fact, I would say many of the ways in which we describe our economy are basically putting new paint on old bottles that we found in the 30s. I’m sure that you certainly have heard Larry Summers, one of our foremost economists has hugely repopularized the expression "secular stagnation" to describe what America and the world was going through—this period, this kind of era of chronic under demand, low employment, below capacity production, deflation, and even strong downward pressure on fertility rates. Well that expression and that idea was invented by Alvin Hanson in 1937. He was a Keynesian and that is how he was going to popularize Keynes and bring it to America and he coined this expression "secular stagnation." So your point, have we been there before? The point is yes. We’ve been there before.

Chris Martenson: Just to put a finer point on it, it was just yesterday that the president of the European commission, Mr. Yunka, he called for the creation of an EU army in order to show Russia, “That we are serious about defending European values.” It’s interesting to me that he’s framed it in terms of values. We need an army besides NATO to show Russia that we are serious about defending European values. And in response there was Chairman of the United Russia Faction of the State Duma, Franz Kinsovitch[ph] said, "in the nuclear age, extra armies do not provide additional security, but they surely can play a provocative role." So there is Russia just pulling out the nuclear trump card just instantly.

When I see two sets of statements just going sort of by each other like ships in the night, there is really no way to get my hands around them and understand really what is being said here. It feels to me like we’re at one of those 1930’s moments, or perhaps a 1914 moment, where nobody can really explain why relationships are as sour as they are, but they keep getting more sour. Is that a fair way to look at this?

Neil Howe: I think it is a fair way to look at it and not just – probably another example of where the relevance the 30’s comes in strongly. Every leader of the Baltic states—I’m talking about Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania—have made explicit references to Czechslovakia in the 1930s as their best comparison to what is going on now. You know, I think for a lot of Americans we may not be as knowledgeable about what Hitler did before the war actually broke out in the fall of 1938 and I know he invaded Poland but it was a series of maneuvers, right? Where he basically took pieces of countries around Germany that had Germans in them, right and acquired them and through kind of intimidation and then sort of by osmosis his troops would move in and then pretty soon kind of a fait accompli and then the most famous instance where Chamberlin came back as prime minister to Britain and said "we have peace in our time." It is interesting that what happened then is used by these—obviously these Baltic States are part of NATO, right? And they would like to feel that they are protected, but I think they’re extremely nervous. It is amazing that Poland is really nervous right now. And I don’t know, is Western Europe really nervous? What does it mean to defend our values? What the hell are they talking about? You know, defend their values? We are talking about defending territory. Is this the way you talk about an alliance?

I totally agree with you the sense of unreality about all of this, as though all of these people involved are really unused to contemplating or having any knowledge of what real war is about. You get that sense from both sides there. As you should. I mean none of them do have any real knowledge of it, right?

Chris Martenson: Absolutely. And from my perspective there is another macro theme playing out which is a little bit different than anything we have had to face before as a species, which is that we just can’t get ever more high quality resources at our disposal. It turns out the world has been pretty well mapped. Last year was the worst year in decades for oil discoveries by the world oil players. And we’re just having a harder and harder time finding the resources we need.

One of the macro themes that I work with all the time is that pretty much any war you want to talk about was a resource war at some point. It had resources at its heart. So that is sort of a theme that I see going on here is that I don’t think the people in power have – like the people at the Federal Reserve, when I interview people that work at big banks, they literally have no working knowledge of resources and the fact they are becoming harder and harder to come by. To them it is just a market problem. You throw money at it and more will show up.

And that is on one side. On the other side, I talk with other economists who have different models that seem to have better predictive explanatory power for what is going on and they basically say, "look it is just too much debt, you know?" We took our 2008 crisis and in response, worldwide, crammed our total worldwide debt levels up by another 35 trillion across the globe to almost 200 trillion of outstanding debt. Of course we are not going to have robust growth under that environment no matter what the interest rate. I feel like we have these big macro explanations that at least ought to have a reasonable adult sized conversation around them and you can’t have any conversation because the holders of the dogma say "no, no this is how we look at the world; we are just going to keep looking at it this way. You just stay to the side, we don’t have any interest in talking."

Neil Howe: Since we talked, this must have been I don’t know, maybe a year ago, we haven’t talked about commodity prices and oil prices. So I’d like to turn this interview around, but I am sort of interested in your point of view on what is happening.

Chris Martenson: This is a fascinating story. We have probably with oil supply and demand are the two pieces that you have to understand. World demand is low. We are having very low global growth. In particular, China is slowing down at an absolutely horrific pace. I don’t believe their official numbers of growth nearly as much as I trust the fact that their imports of key commodities—and the biggies for me are oil, coal, copper and iron ore. Those have all collapsed. They have absolutely slowed down all the ships coming in because they don’t need it. They’re done with their growth cycle. So when I look at the demand side of the story I say okay that’s part one.

Part two on the supply side there is a little extra supply, but there is not a lot. When you take the United States shale plays out of the story. The world, the rest of the world including Canada, is putting it all together in one spot are producing exactly as much oil today as we did in 2005. The United States is the only place which is added to the overall mix and that is going to be a relative flash in the pan because the shale plays deplete very rapidly. They were going to peak in 2020 regardless of how things turned out economically.

So when we put all of that in, I see what we are going to have a very, very large supply shock in a number of years. Two, maybe three given how these things work out because the big companies aren’t finding more on the world stage and they aren’t investing anything at these current oil prices. So this is something that I predicted a long time ago is you would see oil become too expensive for the economy to afford so supplies would start to outrun demand and demand might even fall back and then prices would fall and you would find that oil became too cheap for the oil drillers to drill. And that is sort of the accordion that we are stuck between. But in this story the ceiling and the floor are getting closer and closer together in this story.

Neil Howe: That’s interesting. You know I totally agree on your analysis. I think there is far too little awareness about the main driver of the fall of commodities in particular in oil is due to the fall in demand, not the rise in supply. I don’t know how many times I’ve had this argument with people relating to the shale oil revolution in America. I’m sure you have done battle with these people yourself.

Chris Martenson: Oh yes.

Neil Howe: You look, it is very clear in the global data it was a decline in demand and it really is due to the global – it is due to the problems with the global economy today. And that is what is going on here and the epicenter of it all is China. Of course, Europe and a number of other places are participating as well. I think also that people have not fairly characterized the impact of the lower oil prices. The transfer from producers to consumers is not going to drive through to increasing consumption the way people I think assume. And that is, I think a lot of people have in their mind the days of you know the kind of idle oil sheiks in the mid east and instead of all of this money going into their bank accounts and just sitting there piling up, it is going to go in the hands of consumers and spending. I mean the reality is that most of these big producers now other than – even Saudi Arabia isn’t quite what it was. You are looking at Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Russia, Venezuela, you are looking maybe half a billion people and these are countries where every cent of that oil revenue is spent immediately on their clients and greedy customers and populations that really need that wealth, really need that income. So these are not piling up as idle assets.

And interestingly too, on the other side, on the consumption side, I have been amazed at the number of countries, particularly Indonesia and India, that are not letting the prices to the consumer fall. They are actually using this as an excuse to get rid of their subsidies, which is probably good public policy, but it certainly doesn’t lead to an increase in consumer demand, right? It just leads to more flush public sector balance sheets, which may be great for them in the long run but it certainly doesn’t do anything to boost consumption globally. And I think there has just been a little bit too much use of outmoded assumptions on the impact of a global oil price decline on use and consumption when I just don’t see quite the same dynamic there as might have been there 30 years ago.

Chris Martenson: Oh absolutely and particularly—I did battle on this a lot—you look at the United States, people said "oh this is going to be such a huge boost to consumption." I’m like "no it’s not, because one man’s gain is another man’s loss in the story to the extent we are talking about domestic producers, right?" So if Whiting Petroleum is suddenly receiving a billion dollars less in revenue for its activities in the Bakken, and that billion transfers over to consumers, from a GDP standpoint that is a zero. That’s just how the accounts work. The only way it helps is for an importing nation, perhaps Japan. Now their import bill for fuel has been cut and that definitely has a measurable impact statistically, but I think to your point, the speed of the change and the fall in the price is a shock to the system.

Here is my sense of our global system: The central banks did everything they could to just pump the whole thing back up. They were very clear cut about it. They said "we are going to target, we want equity prices to go up so we are going to target that. We want bond prices to go up, or yields to go down so we are going to target those." They have done everything they can. I think their strategy, Neal, was with two fingers crossed going "please growth come back soon." And it hasn’t happened. That’s confusing.

Neil Howe: Yea. And this is a sign of our times that the Fed, I should say the collective Feds of the world, now they are kind of all in it, basically said to grow the economy we are going to turn financial markets from something that reflects the markets or something that reflects the economy to an indicator of future economic performance to an actual tool of economic performance, right? So we are going to turn that into a tool and we are call it quantitative easing and we are going to flatten the entire yield curve down to the floor and the result will be to inflate the prices of all of these assets and that is going to get people to spend.

Well, predictably we have had this long, robust stock market boom around the world and everyone is looking at a boom explicitly engineered by central bank authorities around the world to get our economy back going again and they look at that and they say "look at how great our economy is doing." Right? This is perverse thinking, right? Perverse logic. And it amazes me how often you see people pointing to the stock market as an indicator of how well our economy is doing.

The thing that worries I think everyone—I’m sure it has to worry the Fed—is how in the world are we going to get the global economy off this steroid, right? How are we going to go back to 5, 6% interest rates or 2, 3% real interest rates around the world? We have become accustomed to this hot house designed for orchids, right? We are all living in it and it is like, how can we go back to live in a real world again without all of these financial markets crashing? And I think it is that realization that is pushing I think, inevitably, delay after delay after endless delay in plans to raise rates again. I think it just keeps getting put off because people are so, you know, concerned about that decision.

Chris Martenson: Well certainly and it cuts to the idea that when Yellen speaks or Bernanke used to, it was always couched in this idea that you know, central banking is a very sophisticated practice. We have a lot of science, we got the math, you need derivative level calculus to understand what we are talking about. But really, you get down to it, money is a social contract and they have basically said "we are going to upend that contract by preferentially printing it out and picking winners and losers," right? And here is what I mean by that – savers were punished. Right? They said we are going to give you 0% return on any savings you have preferentially so that we can induce this other sector over here, we will call it big banks and lending, the credit market cycle. So that was picking winners and losers. That is upending the contract a little bit. They are no longer neutral participants in sort of holding the container that the economy functions in. They have said we are now grossly picking winners and losers on this.

You mentioned competitive devaluations; now we have central banks trying to pick themselves and their whole country as winners and losers by devaluing their currencies competitively. And I think mostly when the Fed and when the Bank of Japan, Bank of England, all of them, ECB, say "we are going to target rising equity values as a social principal, as a social engineering principal, as a marker because then everybody will think things are going great so they will feel great so we will spend more…" These things, Neil, these are so against what are supposedly core principals of free market capitalism are. They have been so grossly distorted that I can’t really recognize the landscape as having anything to do with those principals. I think those make people nervous, not comfortable to your point. I think that their policies work against what they are hoping.

Neil Howe: As always you've got to compare it with alternatives. Was QE a bad thing? Well, what was the alternative? And I think this is the logic by the way we talk about history’s fourth turnings, right? Full of Hobson’s choices. Full of grim choices. I think that what the Fed did and what the Fed got into back in 2000 and well obviously fiscal policy back then was also at that time a big part of it as well 2009, 2010 and then the beginning of the first QE. I think they got into that with a feeling of they had no choice, you know, this is crisis intervention. And crisis intervention became a habit because going off crisis intervention would lead to a crisis, right? And ultimately we got here not because anyone kind of wanted it to happen, but because we just ended up here. And there is a real worry in the same way there was, by the way, and as there was back in the 1930’s. I think the same thing was true about the New Deal. The New Deal was nothing but a thorough perversion of market choices. The New Deal was nothing if not the picking of winners and losers throughout the economy and to your point throughout the world. You know, that was the era of competitive devaluation as you recall. Global trade shrank down to a fraction of what it was back in the 20’s. And it was each country was making a decision which felt to it like survival, and nations were taking enormous collectivist measures with their economy as we were here in our own economy. And that is where we are. I guess what I am saying is I am not surprised we are at this point. I just think that the full consequences of it have not yet been fully perceived and I think they will be perceived when the financial markets ultimately reflect the damage that has been done to the economy as a whole. And I think that will happen probably over the next year, year and a half. And, in fact, you know if it even takes that long.

Chris Martenson: Interesting. So here we are, it is 2015 right now, we are seven years into this fourth turning. Is war always an inevitable marker of the fourth turning?

Neil Howe: No. I don’t think it is inevitable. I just would point out just as an empirical fact that all of the total wars—or I should say the vast majority of the total wars that have been fought, have been fought in fourth turnings. So you know, that is just a sobering thought, right? Certainly in American history you think of – you think of all of our total the war that created us as a political unit, the American Revolution, you look at the Civil War and you look at World War II, those are all fourth turning events. So I wouldn’t say that war is necessary. I certainly hope it is that. What I will say is that fourth turnings tend to lead to crisis that calls forth a period or an episode of total cohesive organized collective public effort in response to a crisis. And that may not hopefully again that may not involve war. It may simply be an organized response to an economic crisis, you know what I mean? It may be – or it may be war in a somewhat different form, right? Certainly today when you look around the world and we look the kinds of global terror that we see in the world, we see forms of war which aren’t exactly the same as what we are used to in terms of earlier eras of war. It may be war but war of a different nature, a different character. But what you can say is the social feel will be very similar to what we have felt in previous periods of total war.

Chris Martenson: I understand. Well said. So I want to turn back to the Millennials then. The American Dream – you study hard, get good grades, go to college, get a good job, work your way up the career ladder, have two and a half kids, you increase your standard of living, you retire to life of ease, right? I know an ever increasing number of people under the age of 30 that do not even remotely connect with that dream, that narrative anymore. Is that just a predictable outcome of their generation here or is something else at work?

Neil Howe: Well, it’s interesting because we have a lot of survey data on that question. We know something about it. We knew the Millenials are actually very much attached to that American Dream as an aspiration. It is amazing. I mean if you look—for instance the reason Met Life survey the American Dream you see that Millenials are actually more likely than older generations to think that eventually owning a home you know, having a family, being married and having a family, owning a home, having some kind of retirement plan is part of the American dream that they aspire to. However, the problem is that all of those things seem out of reach for them, for a lot of them. And in fact, a lot of the things that we used to do as a foundation in life, for example get married, is now Millenials feel that is a cap stone. You don’t do that until you are actually prepared to do that. You really see that in marriage now. I believe it is about two years ago for the first time, going back decades, the first time someone is more likely to be married at age 30 with a college degree than without. It is a real turn around for those of us who remember back when—I don’t know about you, Chris, but I remember a time when you know, you graduated high school and those who did not go to college got married instantly. Right? And those who did go to college were the ones who put it off, right? Well this has completely changed. So economic necessity or the perception of economic means is much more important now in determining whether or not Millenials and young people today feel as though they can buy into this thing. Feel as though they can attain this thing which, by the way, they really want. I can tell you that Millenials are – if you can say anything about them it is they are utterly conventional in the degree to which they will jump through hoops and do everything they can to be qualified, to be worthy of the American Dream and to set themselves up as being, you know, validated by the meritocracy.

I mean just look at the explosion in the share of Millenials who take standardized tests to get into college? The enormous increase in Millenials enrolling in college. Just the quadrupling and quintupling of the number of Millenials who are taking AP tests, right? Advanced placement tests to get in. This is a generation that will do anything to the popularity of smart drugs on college campuses. You know, back when I was in college campuses it was dumb drugs, right? Whatever happened to them? The point is here is a generation very focused on actually winning that meritocratic validation and getting ahead, but the problem is it is receding for them.

And this gets back to this issue we talked about before, namely what monetary authorities are doing in QE. Because what QE has done by inflating financial assets and pushing the return on financial assets down to razor thing levels is that it is the generational inequity. It has hugely enriched older Americans who already have, and it is pressed down to nothing the return to savings for a younger American who wants to invest and wants to save, right? And one thing I will say is that a huge stock market crash in which the S&P 500 falls to half of what it is today—I mean I will just tell you this bluntly, I can’t imagine anything more favorable to Millenials than to be able to buy into a piece of America at half the price, right? And get double the return on their investment. And I think from a younger person’s point of view today, it is their parents and their grandparents who are benefitting by current economic policy. It is one of the reasons why Millenials are happy living at home and going on family vacations and having their older relatives pay for everything, that is kind of how they are used to getting by today in America.

Chris Martenson: I totally understand and I see this play out in certain key markets. I’m familiar with Northern California because that is where my work partner, Adam Taggart lives. The Fed did everything it could to resurrect home buying out there – driving interest rates down, all of this, but the problem was they took already expensive houses and made them even more expensive. That is great for the people who already own them, that is the older generations. For people who are trying to start out in life it looks totally unattainable because you know, a starter 1970’s not yet refinished one bedroom ranch in Palo Alto is 1.2 million. Totally unthinkable at anything but a super, super upper class wage, which not everybody earns. So there is that sense of a generational divide, which is part of why I found—in my work I find younger people disconnecting from the dream because it looks a little bit like a rigged game sometimes to them. They don’t feel like they have gotten a fair hearing in this.

Neil Howe: It is rigged. And by the way, Chris I was a teenager, I grew up in Palo Alto and at that time I think our Eikler home—I think the full price was $30,000. That was it. That's what you could buy an Eikler for. And that was an expensive home in the suburbs back then. Yes, times have definitely changed.

Chris Martenson: Yes. So as a final thought then—I get asked this a lot by young people: What should they do in life? Here we are at this fourth turning, they are asking should they go to college, if they do, what sort of employment they should seek, what skills would be good to learn? What does the fourth turning offer by way of macro guidance here to young people?

Neil Howe: I would just stay open in what you are able to do. I think we are entering a period unlike any like we have seen in recent decades. It is a period where history is going to change very rapidly. Public events are going to change your life—sometimes even overnight. And I think that as the fourth turning unravels and as the economy goes through the kind of trials and tribulations required to get to the other side, ultimately of course we will get to the first turning, which will be a new era of optimism and hope and solid foundation, solid economic and institutional foundations. But it won’t be without a period of tremendous insecurity before we get there. That is simply how history works, right? And I would say that if you are a Millennial, and this is what I tell them all the time, I say don’t assume that today’s institutional arrangements will stay this week. Don’t assume that the stock market will stay this current level. Don’t assume that the bond market will be anything like it is. Don’t even assume all of those student loans will necessarily have to be paid off. And I meet young people all the time who say that, they say all of these banks are getting their loans paid off, do you really think that I’ll have to actually pay all of this off? And I'm saying you know what, actually you may not. I can easily imagine the next New Deal which will suddenly reshuffle the cards in the economic deck and basically say okay we are going to do it differently now. You don’t have to pay those off. We are going to kind of reshuffle the deck in a certain way that will at last benefit your age group and maybe make it a little bit easier for you to save and look forward to the future. This is not something that older people are terribly enthusiastic about. On the other side of the – on another political party. But it is something young people are enthusiastic about. Interestingly, on both sides of the political party, we did a recent survey on this and found it is amazing among Millenials both democrats and republicans feel it is very important that government should be doing something for younger people. A little less surprising from young democrats, more surprising from young republicans, but basically a generational attitude that simply goes totally across a partisan boundaries.

Chris Martenson: Understood, and let’s hope that we do get something going on because this wealth gap and the generational gap are destabilizing influences if left unattended. I feel they have gone on too long, personal opinion there. So Neil, where can people find out more about your work, your book, any future events you might be holding? How would they keep track of you?

Neil Howe: I would say stay tuned on the political front. We actually do have a study coming out on the differences in attitudes by generations in politics which would be available for both parties for the upcoming election, which ought to be interesting. The presidential election 2016. Doing a fair amount of work recently—we have been talking about the Fed and I am actually speaking at an upcoming event. Actually the Fed has a policy conference here in Washington DC so I am actually going to be presenting a paper I think in April on mobility across generations over the post war period and looking ahead to where Millenials are going. I think that will be interesting. I’ve worked on this a little bit with the St. Louis Fed and this will be a time to present if you are in DC.

I would say people interested in our work, Generations and The Fourth Turning are probably the two still the last full length books on this subject that I think are out there. I do have in the works a plan to have a new addition of Generations come out so you can look for that in probably around a year. And I would say we have a new website going up SaeculumResearch.com and I think we have a lot of free news alerts and newsletter services available to readers who just want to stay current with this subject.

Chris Martenson: Well fantastic and Neil thank you so much for your time today. Fascinating as always and we’ll be keeping an eye out for all your work coming up.

Neil Howe: Okay, Chris. Great to talk to you.

Chris Martenson: Thank you.

Neil Howe: Bye.

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. You know, we’re living through one of the most exceptional periods of human existence, defined on one side by remarkable technological advances and on the other side by ecological degeneration and resource depletion. Geopolitically, things have not been as tense as they are between the east and the west at any time in my entire lifetime. And though it is tempting to think of this time being different, it may not be. Not really. If history doesn't repeat itself, it sure does rhyme. History, if looked at correctly, is not names and dates strung together and embellished by the victors, but rather it has a structure, a structure that repeats. A grand motif that plays out over and over again but with different notes. And if one can understand this pattern, then one can better understand the times in which they live and how the future may unfold.

Today we are going to talk about generations and historical patterns, and we have invited back Neil Howe, an American historian, economist and demographer to discuss these historical patterns against current events. Now, he is best known for his work with William Strauss in social generations and generational cycles in American history including the book The Fourth Turning. Neil is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America, an acclaimed author and speaker. He is the nation’s leading thinker on today’s generations, who they are, what motivates them and how they will shape America’s future. Welcome, Neil. It is a real pleasure to have you back.

Neil Howe: Great to be here, Chris.

Chris Martenson: Well when we had you on before, we covered generational cycles and the fourth turning concept, and we’ll link to that earlier interview for those interested in that background. But just to set the stage for today, would you be willing to review the generational and social change theory for us all?

Neil Howe: Well, you know it is a way of looking at social change which is both familiar to people because in a way we do it all the time, but it is also unfamiliar and it is basically keeping in mind that as society moves on year by year, we all get older. It is really as simple as that. And I go to corporations all the time and talk to them about how are they forecasting how people in their 30s and 40s are going to behave, you know, 10 years from now. And they say "well we know everything about 40 year olds and 30 year olds and we have researched the whole history and we just project it forward. Thirty year olds 10 years from now, 30 year olds 20 years from now and so you know everything about 30 year olds." And then I say "well you know when I want to know about 30 year olds 10 years from now, I look at today’s 20 year olds." They look at me shocked. "You do what?" I say "well actually those are the people; they are going to be 10 years older." It sounds elementary; it sounds almost stupid, right? But it is amazing we never think this way when we look at history, when we look at the future.

When you look at time that way, if you have an age on the Y axis and time on the X axis, we all live in a diagonal line, right? Bill and I in our work used to call that the generational diagonal, and that is where we live. Any individual event is a vertical line thrust down through all of those diagonals, right? That is a point in time. But it hits us all differently depending on how old we are. And when we are young, history shapes us, shapes us in a certain way in our attitudes and behaviors, and then later on—maybe 30 or 40 years later—those same people, shaped a certain way, in turn shape history, right? So history both shapes us and it is the thing we shape as we get older. Both as leaders and as parents, right?

So that’s the circle and one of the things that we found in our work looking at history as a sequence of social generations—groups of people that are shaped by history a certain way—is that not only are generations very different and surprisingly even going way back in American history to the 17th and 18th century, people were actually aware of these generational differences. But these generations in their overall attitudes and behaviors tended to assume a certain collective personality that was not only different from each other but tended to recur in a certain kind of pattern. That is, certain kinds of generations tend to follow other generations. And we notice that this pattern was also linked to some of the broader patterns that we have seen in American history. The fact, for instance, that we have had these enormous cataclysmic events in our public life. The great crises, turning points in American history that affect politics, the economy, empire, the great total wars in our history are all in these eras. That these tend to occur about once every long human lifetime, right? You think of the wars of Spanish succession, then the American Revolution, then the Civil War, then World War II and the Great Depression and so on. And roughly halfway in between these great cataclysmic events has been the great cultural and religious awakenings of American history. And there is a reason for these patterns, these patterns are tightly integrated into this because different kinds of generations are either coming of age during one of these events and then subsequently the leaders and the senior people – the mid life parents and ultimately the senior leaders of America during the second one of these events. Looking at how that works out actually leads to a certain kind of choreography of history where we describe history as a sequence of seasonal moods which does recur.

So we look at four recurring types of generations each around 20 years long and associated with that are four recurring social moods which we call turnings. These are almost like seasons of a year which take about the length of a long human lifetime to repeat.

And as we probably went into last time, Chris, you know, we talked about the winter season in history is what we call the fourth turning, and it is the crisis era, right? And we estimated at that time and certainly still do that we probably entered that era in 2008. Each of these periods, each of these turnings, each of these moods can be dated. I mean you can kind of tell when you are entering it and when you are leaving it. And we thought that that—you know, it takes a little while sometimes for you to look back in history, right? To actually know when a date was, when a new generation comes along or when the social mood changes. But I feel pretty comfortable with that date and thus far we haven’t had much occasion to change it and I think we are well into that mood and I think the generational line up is pretty clear. Boomers are moving into the senior leadership position. Generation X, people born in the 1960s and 1970s are in the process of moving into mid life where they will be the hands on managers. And the new millennial generation is coming of age into young adulthood. They are about halfway into that phase of life right now, a little bit less than halfway in. They are the generation we first wrote about in our first book back in 1991 when we first gave them a name. Chris, we may have talked about that, our first awareness of Millenials. At that time when we were writing about them the oldest of them were only about eight years old back in 1991. But now, of course, they are the coming of age generation. Back in 1991 we were just beginning to learn about and for the first time talk about Generation X, which interestingly at that time hadn’t even been named yet. So there we are.

Chris Martenson: Well fantastic. Thanks for that. To put this in context, that crisis stage, it is about a 20 year chunk, right? I assume each one of these four turnings is about a 20 year period roughly. The period before that would have been the unraveling period. That would have sort of ended I guess in 2008.

Neil Howe: Yea, exactly.

Chris Martenson: So what characterizes that period? I want to try to understand how we understand where we are in crisis. So unraveling, what is that about?

Neil Howe: One way to think about this, Talcott Parsons said it perfect. He was a famous sociologist in the early post-war era. He had an interesting fourfold way of looking at social transitions, which I think actually is an interesting way of looking at turning shifts. At least one way of characterizing turning shifts. He said that at any given time there is a kind of a supply and demand for order in society. And that one way of thinking about a first turning which is like the American high, you know, the presidencies of Truman and Eisenhower and Kennedy. These were post crisis eras when individualism is weak and institutions are strong and we feel very good collectively about who we are. And in Talcott Parsons words, this is an era when the supply and demand for social order is very strong. In other words, there is order out there and people want it, right? And feel good about it.

The awakening era which is the second turning and of course a lot of us who call that experience from you know, the mid 60’s through the 70’s into the early 80’s that was the great consciousness revolution, what some historians call America’s fourth or fifth great awakening. Or Frances Fukiyama in a recent book actually called it The Great Disruption, this period of social and family experimentation. That period was a period in Talcott Parson’s words in which the supply of order was so strong but the demand for it was very weak, which is what created all the demonstrations and protests and people wanting to throw off social obligation and authority, right?

The third turning, which really began with the Reagan years and lasted on throughout obviously the 1990s and into the 00’s is a period in Parson’s words, when both the supply and demand for order is weak. Right? Nothing was very ordered. We are all happy being free agents and the kind of social entropy was high and everyone kind of loved it. So this is what we call I think when you use the word "unraveling," these are periods of kind of maximum social disorder in the sense of what we feel we need from society to help order our lives. A certain kind of generation comes of age during these eras we call a nomad archetype. Most recently of course, that was Generation X coming of age. During the roaring 20’s, by the way, that was the Lost Generation coming of age, and you and me can go back in American history—you find these particular kind of generations. You know a little bit wild, certainly a huge reputation for being young, risk takers. And that is what we associate with these eras.

The fourth turning, and to use Parson’s terminology, the supply of order is still absent that the demand for order grows. Right? So we now have a demand for order and no supply. That creates the unusual dynamics of a fourth turning. Kind of like we had in the 1930’s. People suddenly feel that no one is in control and that enormous events are overtaking their society which no one of leadership age has any idea how to confront or how to manage, right? And it goes without saying today we look up to Gen Xers and boomers and we see leaders who couldn’t organize their way out of a shoe box. I mean I live in the Washington DC area and government here—Congress literally does nothing. I mean all they do is argue and fight and nothing gets done in this city. And it is amazing, a great testament to the inertia, the power of institutional inertia that things keep moving forward in some manner. But I think there is this great unsettled feeling that we have that there is a rudderless ship that we’re on where no one knows where it is going. We see dangers that we seem paralyzed and unable to respond to them and I think no one feels that more than the millennial generation coming of age. I think that will be one of the great burdens they will have to manage as they move through this period.

Chris Martenson: I would like to get back to that in just a second because that is a really important topic for us and our audience. Before we do though—this idea of this institutional inertia in the sense that our leadership is being outpaced and outclassed by events. I want to explore that. So the US and Europe have, for reason that are not entirely transparent to this observer, decided to cast Russia out of the fold, demonize Putin personally, continually accuse Russia of invading Ukraine with hundreds of pieces of heavy equipment. 20,000 men, General Breedlove just said from Russia are in Ukraine, without ever providing a single piece of photographic evidence, which it must be noted is just child’s play for today’s satellites to detect such movements like that. So this breakdown in relations and even the breakdown of basic and reasonable diplomatic protocols—are these expected features of the crisis stage? Does this help us understand what is happening now?

Neil Howe: Yes. And you know, the idea of a global order, which used to be so strong for so many of us growing up most of our lives. Remember the whole period of the cold war. And then of course followed by this period of one hyper power, which was America seeming to preside over this new – kind of a very third turning notion, right? Of a world that would just be run by the dynamism of markets and that would solve everything. That was the end of history as I recall as the millennium came to a close. It has now been overtaken by this much grimmer scenario of power vacuums and failed states in the context of a multi polar world in which absolutely no one is in control and none of the major players terribly much trust anyone anymore. The last time we had this kind of scenario was the 1930’s. I mean this was the 1930’s. And in fact, many of the things we talk about now which is competitive devaluations, right? Which is, I mean, that is a script taken from the 30’s.

In fact, I would say many of the ways in which we describe our economy are basically putting new paint on old bottles that we found in the 30s. I’m sure that you certainly have heard Larry Summers, one of our foremost economists has hugely repopularized the expression "secular stagnation" to describe what America and the world was going through—this period, this kind of era of chronic under demand, low employment, below capacity production, deflation, and even strong downward pressure on fertility rates. Well that expression and that idea was invented by Alvin Hanson in 1937. He was a Keynesian and that is how he was going to popularize Keynes and bring it to America and he coined this expression "secular stagnation." So your point, have we been there before? The point is yes. We’ve been there before.

Chris Martenson: Just to put a finer point on it, it was just yesterday that the president of the European commission, Mr. Yunka, he called for the creation of an EU army in order to show Russia, “That we are serious about defending European values.” It’s interesting to me that he’s framed it in terms of values. We need an army besides NATO to show Russia that we are serious about defending European values. And in response there was Chairman of the United Russia Faction of the State Duma, Franz Kinsovitch[ph] said, "in the nuclear age, extra armies do not provide additional security, but they surely can play a provocative role." So there is Russia just pulling out the nuclear trump card just instantly.

When I see two sets of statements just going sort of by each other like ships in the night, there is really no way to get my hands around them and understand really what is being said here. It feels to me like we’re at one of those 1930’s moments, or perhaps a 1914 moment, where nobody can really explain why relationships are as sour as they are, but they keep getting more sour. Is that a fair way to look at this?

Neil Howe: I think it is a fair way to look at it and not just – probably another example of where the relevance the 30’s comes in strongly. Every leader of the Baltic states—I’m talking about Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania—have made explicit references to Czechslovakia in the 1930s as their best comparison to what is going on now. You know, I think for a lot of Americans we may not be as knowledgeable about what Hitler did before the war actually broke out in the fall of 1938 and I know he invaded Poland but it was a series of maneuvers, right? Where he basically took pieces of countries around Germany that had Germans in them, right and acquired them and through kind of intimidation and then sort of by osmosis his troops would move in and then pretty soon kind of a fait accompli and then the most famous instance where Chamberlin came back as prime minister to Britain and said "we have peace in our time." It is interesting that what happened then is used by these—obviously these Baltic States are part of NATO, right? And they would like to feel that they are protected, but I think they’re extremely nervous. It is amazing that Poland is really nervous right now. And I don’t know, is Western Europe really nervous? What does it mean to defend our values? What the hell are they talking about? You know, defend their values? We are talking about defending territory. Is this the way you talk about an alliance?

I totally agree with you the sense of unreality about all of this, as though all of these people involved are really unused to contemplating or having any knowledge of what real war is about. You get that sense from both sides there. As you should. I mean none of them do have any real knowledge of it, right?

Chris Martenson: Absolutely. And from my perspective there is another macro theme playing out which is a little bit different than anything we have had to face before as a species, which is that we just can’t get ever more high quality resources at our disposal. It turns out the world has been pretty well mapped. Last year was the worst year in decades for oil discoveries by the world oil players. And we’re just having a harder and harder time finding the resources we need.

One of the macro themes that I work with all the time is that pretty much any war you want to talk about was a resource war at some point. It had resources at its heart. So that is sort of a theme that I see going on here is that I don’t think the people in power have – like the people at the Federal Reserve, when I interview people that work at big banks, they literally have no working knowledge of resources and the fact they are becoming harder and harder to come by. To them it is just a market problem. You throw money at it and more will show up.

And that is on one side. On the other side, I talk with other economists who have different models that seem to have better predictive explanatory power for what is going on and they basically say, "look it is just too much debt, you know?" We took our 2008 crisis and in response, worldwide, crammed our total worldwide debt levels up by another 35 trillion across the globe to almost 200 trillion of outstanding debt. Of course we are not going to have robust growth under that environment no matter what the interest rate. I feel like we have these big macro explanations that at least ought to have a reasonable adult sized conversation around them and you can’t have any conversation because the holders of the dogma say "no, no this is how we look at the world; we are just going to keep looking at it this way. You just stay to the side, we don’t have any interest in talking."

Neil Howe: Since we talked, this must have been I don’t know, maybe a year ago, we haven’t talked about commodity prices and oil prices. So I’d like to turn this interview around, but I am sort of interested in your point of view on what is happening.

Chris Martenson: This is a fascinating story. We have probably with oil supply and demand are the two pieces that you have to understand. World demand is low. We are having very low global growth. In particular, China is slowing down at an absolutely horrific pace. I don’t believe their official numbers of growth nearly as much as I trust the fact that their imports of key commodities—and the biggies for me are oil, coal, copper and iron ore. Those have all collapsed. They have absolutely slowed down all the ships coming in because they don’t need it. They’re done with their growth cycle. So when I look at the demand side of the story I say okay that’s part one.

Part two on the supply side there is a little extra supply, but there is not a lot. When you take the United States shale plays out of the story. The world, the rest of the world including Canada, is putting it all together in one spot are producing exactly as much oil today as we did in 2005. The United States is the only place which is added to the overall mix and that is going to be a relative flash in the pan because the shale plays deplete very rapidly. They were going to peak in 2020 regardless of how things turned out economically.

So when we put all of that in, I see what we are going to have a very, very large supply shock in a number of years. Two, maybe three given how these things work out because the big companies aren’t finding more on the world stage and they aren’t investing anything at these current oil prices. So this is something that I predicted a long time ago is you would see oil become too expensive for the economy to afford so supplies would start to outrun demand and demand might even fall back and then prices would fall and you would find that oil became too cheap for the oil drillers to drill. And that is sort of the accordion that we are stuck between. But in this story the ceiling and the floor are getting closer and closer together in this story.

Neil Howe: That’s interesting. You know I totally agree on your analysis. I think there is far too little awareness about the main driver of the fall of commodities in particular in oil is due to the fall in demand, not the rise in supply. I don’t know how many times I’ve had this argument with people relating to the shale oil revolution in America. I’m sure you have done battle with these people yourself.

Chris Martenson: Oh yes.

Neil Howe: You look, it is very clear in the global data it was a decline in demand and it really is due to the global – it is due to the problems with the global economy today. And that is what is going on here and the epicenter of it all is China. Of course, Europe and a number of other places are participating as well. I think also that people have not fairly characterized the impact of the lower oil prices. The transfer from producers to consumers is not going to drive through to increasing consumption the way people I think assume. And that is, I think a lot of people have in their mind the days of you know the kind of idle oil sheiks in the mid east and instead of all of this money going into their bank accounts and just sitting there piling up, it is going to go in the hands of consumers and spending. I mean the reality is that most of these big producers now other than – even Saudi Arabia isn’t quite what it was. You are looking at Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Russia, Venezuela, you are looking maybe half a billion people and these are countries where every cent of that oil revenue is spent immediately on their clients and greedy customers and populations that really need that wealth, really need that income. So these are not piling up as idle assets.

And interestingly too, on the other side, on the consumption side, I have been amazed at the number of countries, particularly Indonesia and India, that are not letting the prices to the consumer fall. They are actually using this as an excuse to get rid of their subsidies, which is probably good public policy, but it certainly doesn’t lead to an increase in consumer demand, right? It just leads to more flush public sector balance sheets, which may be great for them in the long run but it certainly doesn’t do anything to boost consumption globally. And I think there has just been a little bit too much use of outmoded assumptions on the impact of a global oil price decline on use and consumption when I just don’t see quite the same dynamic there as might have been there 30 years ago.

Chris Martenson: Oh absolutely and particularly—I did battle on this a lot—you look at the United States, people said "oh this is going to be such a huge boost to consumption." I’m like "no it’s not, because one man’s gain is another man’s loss in the story to the extent we are talking about domestic producers, right?" So if Whiting Petroleum is suddenly receiving a billion dollars less in revenue for its activities in the Bakken, and that billion transfers over to consumers, from a GDP standpoint that is a zero. That’s just how the accounts work. The only way it helps is for an importing nation, perhaps Japan. Now their import bill for fuel has been cut and that definitely has a measurable impact statistically, but I think to your point, the speed of the change and the fall in the price is a shock to the system.

Here is my sense of our global system: The central banks did everything they could to just pump the whole thing back up. They were very clear cut about it. They said "we are going to target, we want equity prices to go up so we are going to target that. We want bond prices to go up, or yields to go down so we are going to target those." They have done everything they can. I think their strategy, Neal, was with two fingers crossed going "please growth come back soon." And it hasn’t happened. That’s confusing.

Neil Howe: Yea. And this is a sign of our times that the Fed, I should say the collective Feds of the world, now they are kind of all in it, basically said to grow the economy we are going to turn financial markets from something that reflects the markets or something that reflects the economy to an indicator of future economic performance to an actual tool of economic performance, right? So we are going to turn that into a tool and we are call it quantitative easing and we are going to flatten the entire yield curve down to the floor and the result will be to inflate the prices of all of these assets and that is going to get people to spend.

Well, predictably we have had this long, robust stock market boom around the world and everyone is looking at a boom explicitly engineered by central bank authorities around the world to get our economy back going again and they look at that and they say "look at how great our economy is doing." Right? This is perverse thinking, right? Perverse logic. And it amazes me how often you see people pointing to the stock market as an indicator of how well our economy is doing.

The thing that worries I think everyone—I’m sure it has to worry the Fed—is how in the world are we going to get the global economy off this steroid, right? How are we going to go back to 5, 6% interest rates or 2, 3% real interest rates around the world? We have become accustomed to this hot house designed for orchids, right? We are all living in it and it is like, how can we go back to live in a real world again without all of these financial markets crashing? And I think it is that realization that is pushing I think, inevitably, delay after delay after endless delay in plans to raise rates again. I think it just keeps getting put off because people are so, you know, concerned about that decision.

Chris Martenson: Well certainly and it cuts to the idea that when Yellen speaks or Bernanke used to, it was always couched in this idea that you know, central banking is a very sophisticated practice. We have a lot of science, we got the math, you need derivative level calculus to understand what we are talking about. But really, you get down to it, money is a social contract and they have basically said "we are going to upend that contract by preferentially printing it out and picking winners and losers," right? And here is what I mean by that – savers were punished. Right? They said we are going to give you 0% return on any savings you have preferentially so that we can induce this other sector over here, we will call it big banks and lending, the credit market cycle. So that was picking winners and losers. That is upending the contract a little bit. They are no longer neutral participants in sort of holding the container that the economy functions in. They have said we are now grossly picking winners and losers on this.

You mentioned competitive devaluations; now we have central banks trying to pick themselves and their whole country as winners and losers by devaluing their currencies competitively. And I think mostly when the Fed and when the Bank of Japan, Bank of England, all of them, ECB, say "we are going to target rising equity values as a social principal, as a social engineering principal, as a marker because then everybody will think things are going great so they will feel great so we will spend more…" These things, Neil, these are so against what are supposedly core principals of free market capitalism are. They have been so grossly distorted that I can’t really recognize the landscape as having anything to do with those principals. I think those make people nervous, not comfortable to your point. I think that their policies work against what they are hoping.

Neil Howe: As always you've got to compare it with alternatives. Was QE a bad thing? Well, what was the alternative? And I think this is the logic by the way we talk about history’s fourth turnings, right? Full of Hobson’s choices. Full of grim choices. I think that what the Fed did and what the Fed got into back in 2000 and well obviously fiscal policy back then was also at that time a big part of it as well 2009, 2010 and then the beginning of the first QE. I think they got into that with a feeling of they had no choice, you know, this is crisis intervention. And crisis intervention became a habit because going off crisis intervention would lead to a crisis, right? And ultimately we got here not because anyone kind of wanted it to happen, but because we just ended up here. And there is a real worry in the same way there was, by the way, and as there was back in the 1930’s. I think the same thing was true about the New Deal. The New Deal was nothing but a thorough perversion of market choices. The New Deal was nothing if not the picking of winners and losers throughout the economy and to your point throughout the world. You know, that was the era of competitive devaluation as you recall. Global trade shrank down to a fraction of what it was back in the 20’s. And it was each country was making a decision which felt to it like survival, and nations were taking enormous collectivist measures with their economy as we were here in our own economy. And that is where we are. I guess what I am saying is I am not surprised we are at this point. I just think that the full consequences of it have not yet been fully perceived and I think they will be perceived when the financial markets ultimately reflect the damage that has been done to the economy as a whole. And I think that will happen probably over the next year, year and a half. And, in fact, you know if it even takes that long.

Chris Martenson: Interesting. So here we are, it is 2015 right now, we are seven years into this fourth turning. Is war always an inevitable marker of the fourth turning?

Neil Howe: No. I don’t think it is inevitable. I just would point out just as an empirical fact that all of the total wars—or I should say the vast majority of the total wars that have been fought, have been fought in fourth turnings. So you know, that is just a sobering thought, right? Certainly in American history you think of – you think of all of our total the war that created us as a political unit, the American Revolution, you look at the Civil War and you look at World War II, those are all fourth turning events. So I wouldn’t say that war is necessary. I certainly hope it is that. What I will say is that fourth turnings tend to lead to crisis that calls forth a period or an episode of total cohesive organized collective public effort in response to a crisis. And that may not hopefully again that may not involve war. It may simply be an organized response to an economic crisis, you know what I mean? It may be – or it may be war in a somewhat different form, right? Certainly today when you look around the world and we look the kinds of global terror that we see in the world, we see forms of war which aren’t exactly the same as what we are used to in terms of earlier eras of war. It may be war but war of a different nature, a different character. But what you can say is the social feel will be very similar to what we have felt in previous periods of total war.

Chris Martenson: I understand. Well said. So I want to turn back to the Millennials then. The American Dream – you study hard, get good grades, go to college, get a good job, work your way up the career ladder, have two and a half kids, you increase your standard of living, you retire to life of ease, right? I know an ever increasing number of people under the age of 30 that do not even remotely connect with that dream, that narrative anymore. Is that just a predictable outcome of their generation here or is something else at work?

Neil Howe: Well, it’s interesting because we have a lot of survey data on that question. We know something about it. We knew the Millenials are actually very much attached to that American Dream as an aspiration. It is amazing. I mean if you look—for instance the reason Met Life survey the American Dream you see that Millenials are actually more likely than older generations to think that eventually owning a home you know, having a family, being married and having a family, owning a home, having some kind of retirement plan is part of the American dream that they aspire to. However, the problem is that all of those things seem out of reach for them, for a lot of them. And in fact, a lot of the things that we used to do as a foundation in life, for example get married, is now Millenials feel that is a cap stone. You don’t do that until you are actually prepared to do that. You really see that in marriage now. I believe it is about two years ago for the first time, going back decades, the first time someone is more likely to be married at age 30 with a college degree than without. It is a real turn around for those of us who remember back when—I don’t know about you, Chris, but I remember a time when you know, you graduated high school and those who did not go to college got married instantly. Right? And those who did go to college were the ones who put it off, right? Well this has completely changed. So economic necessity or the perception of economic means is much more important now in determining whether or not Millenials and young people today feel as though they can buy into this thing. Feel as though they can attain this thing which, by the way, they really want. I can tell you that Millenials are – if you can say anything about them it is they are utterly conventional in the degree to which they will jump through hoops and do everything they can to be qualified, to be worthy of the American Dream and to set themselves up as being, you know, validated by the meritocracy.

I mean just look at the explosion in the share of Millenials who take standardized tests to get into college? The enormous increase in Millenials enrolling in college. Just the quadrupling and quintupling of the number of Millenials who are taking AP tests, right? Advanced placement tests to get in. This is a generation that will do anything to the popularity of smart drugs on college campuses. You know, back when I was in college campuses it was dumb drugs, right? Whatever happened to them? The point is here is a generation very focused on actually winning that meritocratic validation and getting ahead, but the problem is it is receding for them.

And this gets back to this issue we talked about before, namely what monetary authorities are doing in QE. Because what QE has done by inflating financial assets and pushing the return on financial assets down to razor thing levels is that it is the generational inequity. It has hugely enriched older Americans who already have, and it is pressed down to nothing the return to savings for a younger American who wants to invest and wants to save, right? And one thing I will say is that a huge stock market crash in which the S&P 500 falls to half of what it is today—I mean I will just tell you this bluntly, I can’t imagine anything more favorable to Millenials than to be able to buy into a piece of America at half the price, right? And get double the return on their investment. And I think from a younger person’s point of view today, it is their parents and their grandparents who are benefitting by current economic policy. It is one of the reasons why Millenials are happy living at home and going on family vacations and having their older relatives pay for everything, that is kind of how they are used to getting by today in America.

Chris Martenson: I totally understand and I see this play out in certain key markets. I’m familiar with Northern California because that is where my work partner, Adam Taggart lives. The Fed did everything it could to resurrect home buying out there – driving interest rates down, all of this, but the problem was they took already expensive houses and made them even more expensive. That is great for the people who already own them, that is the older generations. For people who are trying to start out in life it looks totally unattainable because you know, a starter 1970’s not yet refinished one bedroom ranch in Palo Alto is 1.2 million. Totally unthinkable at anything but a super, super upper class wage, which not everybody earns. So there is that sense of a generational divide, which is part of why I found—in my work I find younger people disconnecting from the dream because it looks a little bit like a rigged game sometimes to them. They don’t feel like they have gotten a fair hearing in this.

Neil Howe: It is rigged. And by the way, Chris I was a teenager, I grew up in Palo Alto and at that time I think our Eikler home—I think the full price was $30,000. That was it. That's what you could buy an Eikler for. And that was an expensive home in the suburbs back then. Yes, times have definitely changed.

Chris Martenson: Yes. So as a final thought then—I get asked this a lot by young people: What should they do in life? Here we are at this fourth turning, they are asking should they go to college, if they do, what sort of employment they should seek, what skills would be good to learn? What does the fourth turning offer by way of macro guidance here to young people?

Neil Howe: I would just stay open in what you are able to do. I think we are entering a period unlike any like we have seen in recent decades. It is a period where history is going to change very rapidly. Public events are going to change your life—sometimes even overnight. And I think that as the fourth turning unravels and as the economy goes through the kind of trials and tribulations required to get to the other side, ultimately of course we will get to the first turning, which will be a new era of optimism and hope and solid foundation, solid economic and institutional foundations. But it won’t be without a period of tremendous insecurity before we get there. That is simply how history works, right? And I would say that if you are a Millennial, and this is what I tell them all the time, I say don’t assume that today’s institutional arrangements will stay this week. Don’t assume that the stock market will stay this current level. Don’t assume that the bond market will be anything like it is. Don’t even assume all of those student loans will necessarily have to be paid off. And I meet young people all the time who say that, they say all of these banks are getting their loans paid off, do you really think that I’ll have to actually pay all of this off? And I'm saying you know what, actually you may not. I can easily imagine the next New Deal which will suddenly reshuffle the cards in the economic deck and basically say okay we are going to do it differently now. You don’t have to pay those off. We are going to kind of reshuffle the deck in a certain way that will at last benefit your age group and maybe make it a little bit easier for you to save and look forward to the future. This is not something that older people are terribly enthusiastic about. On the other side of the – on another political party. But it is something young people are enthusiastic about. Interestingly, on both sides of the political party, we did a recent survey on this and found it is amazing among Millenials both democrats and republicans feel it is very important that government should be doing something for younger people. A little less surprising from young democrats, more surprising from young republicans, but basically a generational attitude that simply goes totally across a partisan boundaries.

Chris Martenson: Understood, and let’s hope that we do get something going on because this wealth gap and the generational gap are destabilizing influences if left unattended. I feel they have gone on too long, personal opinion there. So Neil, where can people find out more about your work, your book, any future events you might be holding? How would they keep track of you?

Neil Howe: I would say stay tuned on the political front. We actually do have a study coming out on the differences in attitudes by generations in politics which would be available for both parties for the upcoming election, which ought to be interesting. The presidential election 2016. Doing a fair amount of work recently—we have been talking about the Fed and I am actually speaking at an upcoming event. Actually the Fed has a policy conference here in Washington DC so I am actually going to be presenting a paper I think in April on mobility across generations over the post war period and looking ahead to where Millenials are going. I think that will be interesting. I’ve worked on this a little bit with the St. Louis Fed and this will be a time to present if you are in DC.

I would say people interested in our work, Generations and The Fourth Turning are probably the two still the last full length books on this subject that I think are out there. I do have in the works a plan to have a new addition of Generations come out so you can look for that in probably around a year. And I would say we have a new website going up SaeculumResearch.com and I think we have a lot of free news alerts and newsletter services available to readers who just want to stay current with this subject.

Chris Martenson: Well fantastic and Neil thank you so much for your time today. Fascinating as always and we’ll be keeping an eye out for all your work coming up.

Neil Howe: Okay, Chris. Great to talk to you.

Chris Martenson: Thank you.

Neil Howe: Bye.

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48 Comments

Thetallestmanonearth's picture
Thetallestmanonearth
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 28 2013
Posts: 324
millennials

Thanks for addressing us millennials. I'm 29 and have been luckier than a lot of my peers in that my wife and I have been able to get into a starter home and have a relatively stable middle class income (for now). And that even with crushing student loans that I brought into the marriage. I hear a lot of people say it's irresponsible and selfish for millennials to be asking for our bailout, but we're just following societies example.  If you get one we want one too! Fair is fair. The social contract said if we played by the rules and went to school at any cost, good jobs and prosperity would be our reward.  For most of us that's just not the case.

I think the tendency is to jump to the conclusion that millennials have a different value system and don't want the same lifestyles as previous generations.  That is largely because we're seen as not pursing it, but why would you pursue something that seems unattainable?  If you're 24 and living under crushing debt and diminishing opportunities it's not realistic to set the goal of owning a home and having 2-1/2 kids so most learn to be happy with a different vision of the future.  Strip away the shackles and you'll find that most of us want the same thing our parents had.

 

HughK's picture
HughK
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Posts: 764
A falsifiable framework or the "Sargasso Sea of psuedoscience"?

One of the things I really appreciate about Chris' work is that he does an excellent job depicting a big-picture view of where we are at as a global industrial civilization.  And, with very few exceptions, he supports his view with data.  In other words, it is possible to test the analysis against the data he provides as well as other data.  

Howe certainly offers very broad view as well, which is appealing.  However, since PP's 2013 interview with Howe, I have been wondering if the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory is a grounded, falsifiable, and data-driven theory, or if it is an artfully constructed narrative, that, like a Mardi Gras float or a Potemkin Village, is, for the most part, a façade.

Now, the conversation in this podcast is an engaging one, and Howe certainly brings up a lot of good points, so my question is really focusing on the theory, and not on Howe's comments in this interview.

Here are some examples of why Howe's theory is questionable:

Howe seems to try to shape and massage data to support his theory, as opposed to constructing a theory based on the data.  For example, in this interview, he claims that millennials are "utterly conventional" and the data he cites is the rapid increase in the percentage of American high school students taking Advanced Placement tests.  This didn't pass the smell test, as there are a lot of possible explanations for why the percentage of students taking AP tests has increased besides active choice to take them on the part of students.  Here is a quote from a Utah newspaper highlighting the most obvious of these other explanations:

The AP program dates to the 1950s, but has grown rapidly in recent years to 34 subjects, from art history to Japanese. High-achieving students and parents have driven some of the growth, but mostly it's educators and policymakers. Source

As a teacher, this is what I suspected.  While certainly individual students may choose to take more AP tests in an attempt to better their future (and hopefully also b/c they're genuinely interested in the material), when there is a very major change in the percentage of students involved in a particular educational program, this is very likely the result of some change of program or policy.  So, at least in this example, the evidence that Howe uses to support his theory appears to be quite flimsy.

Another example of dubious use of data to support Howe's analysis of millennials can be found in an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education:

In 2000, Neil Howe and William Strauss published Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, which cast turn-of-the-century teenagers as rule followers who were engaged, optimistic, and downright pleasant. The authors assigned them seven "core traits": special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured, and achieving. These conclusions were based on a hodgepodge of anecdotes, statistics, and pop-culture references, as well as on surveys of teachers and about 600 high-school seniors in Fairfax County, Va., which in 2007 became the first county in the nation to have a median household income of more than $100,000, about twice the national average. Source

But Howe's analysis of millennials is just one part of his much bigger theory of the four turnings.  Perhaps the general theory of these four waves of history holds, even if his work on millennials is questionable. Well, this quotes makes me wonder:

And I think that as the fourth turning unravels and as the economy goes through the kind of trials and tribulations required to get to the other side, ultimately of course we will get to the first turning, which will be a new era of optimism and hope and solid foundation, solid economic and institutional foundations. But it won’t be without a period of tremendous insecurity before we get there. That is simply how history works, right?

OK, first of all, was I the only one who chuckled when Howe posed the rhetorical question that I put in bold? That's some first rate tautology, and lends credence to the concern that Howe doesn't hold his own work to high standards of faslifiability.

But, the bigger problem with this quote - at least for those of us here at PP - is the fact that it pretends that history happens in regular waves whereas we here tend to see very good reasons to believe that industrial expansion and contraction (imagine a peak oil graph) is a rather unique event in history based on fossil fuels.  Yes, of course other civilizations have also risen and fallen, but when Howe says, "ultimately we will get to the first turning...a new era of optimism and hope and solid...economic and institutional foundations" I don't think he is on the same page as anyone who recognizes the massive potential for destabilization brought about by chronically depleting fossil fuel availability.  Mr. Howe, there is good evidence to think that we are looking at a series of crises, contractions, collapses and conflicts, not a 20 year rough spot followed by a new age of plenty.  As usual, Arthur stated this much more succinctly than I have in his post Circles? If Only.

The reference in the title of this post is from Michael Lind's review of The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. Lind also says that Howe makes a lot of great points ("brilliant aperçus"), but also that it's hard to see how this theory is a useful tool for either historical analysis or forecasting.  

For most applications, falsifiable methods of analysis and forecasting are superior.  Examples include Hubbert's theory, Hall and Cleveland's EROI, or the use of Joseph Tainter's and Jared Diamond's analyses of how past civilizations collapsed in order to better understand if similar trends can be found in our own.  

Unlike much of Howe's work, these other scholars seek to use concepts and data from the hard sciences to better understand the human world.  This is why I appreciate Chris' work as well, and why, as a social studies teacher who wants his discipline to have as much respectability as possible, I prefer social science theories based on hard data.

Cheers,
Hugh

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 2 2010
Posts: 1469
Define Order!

What is Order?   Is conformity Order or the illusion of Order?  Consider Anti-Fragility.   I would rather define "turnings" as turnings of B.S. levels.   The focus would be on the politicians.  

aggrivated's picture
aggrivated
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Posts: 572
a period of tremendous insecurity. RIGHT!

4th turnings are periods of insecurity when millions die like in WWII, the Black Death, etc. After such periods sure the 1st turning is going to feel better. But, I agree with HughK, that whether or not the Turnings theory of history is valid that we are entering a period of decline of resources that will make all of 4th turnings since 1500 seem negligible.  

To quote:

'Mr. Howe, there is good evidence to think that we are looking at a series of crises, contractions, collapses and conflicts, not a 20 year rough spot followed by a new age of plenty.  As usual, Arthur stated this much more succinctly than I have in his post Circles? If Only.'

Dear Tallestmanonearth and other Millennials.  As a Boomer I am doing all I can to lessen my personal load on the earth and the economic system that is currently functioning.  Having and loving a family is good.  I have one and thoroughly endorse this for the future of mankind. However hanging onto (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038650/) "Its a Wonderful LIfe" is not a good plan.  It's time for all of us to lower our expectations and start to figure out how to live happily ever after. Please accept this thought with all of the deep concern and affection that this grandfather has for his offspring.

Mark_BC's picture
Mark_BC
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Posts: 522
HughK wrote:But, the bigger
HughK wrote:

But, the bigger problem with this quote - at least for those of us here at PP - is the fact that it pretends that history happens in regular waves whereas we here tend to see very good reasons to believe that industrial expansion and contraction (imagine a peak oil graph) is a rather unique event in history based on fossil fuels.  Yes, of course other civilizations have also risen and fallen, but when Howe says, "ultimately we will get to the first turning...a new era of optimism and hope and solid...economic and institutional foundations" I don't think he is on the same page as anyone who recognizes the massive potential for destabilization brought about by chronically depleting fossil fuel availability.  Mr. Howe, there is good evidence to think that we are looking at a series of crises, contractions, collapses and conflicts, not a 20 year rough spot followed by a new age of plenty.

Hugh, I was thinking the same thing. While I think it is good to look at previous cycles to help understand where we are and what may be factors in the future, I agree that our future is one of almost permanent decline. The economic situation the West faces is so bleak I wonder how order will be re-established and countries will continue, which is why I think catastrophic war may be the option taken.

The US economy has been so hollowed out and practical skills not promoted anymore, like for example how to manufacture things, that when the trade deficit and dollar end, I see massive permanent unemployment. I see no options that politicians are willing to take to address this.

I have been contemplating this myself, career wise. For various reasons 10 years ago I went into engineering, leaving behind a career in biology. This was in large part for the job opportunities. This may ironically have been a mistake since engineers will be a dime a dozen when growth stops and new infrastructure projects stagnate (well they already are). On the other hand, things like working with animals, medicine, the kinds of jobs that people will always have a demand for regardless of whether the economy is growing, will be the best bets for the future.

My recommendations for careers: medicine, repair mechanics, resource extraction technologies (since we still may get one more hoorah out of out our resources when we can no longer import them and their prices skyrocket -- but it will be a boom and bust job market), public sector doing real jobs maintaining infrastructure, I would say agriculture as well but who knows how corporate agribusiness will affect jobs there.

Careers to avoid: retail, finance (obviously), bureaucracy of any kind including law I would presume, arts, any engineering field involved in building new infrastructure catering to growth (sectors maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure may be a safe bet but you will have to compete with all the other unemployed engineers).

davefairtex's picture
davefairtex
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Posts: 5687
cycles

Hugh, Mark-

I think there's a pony in there somewhere.  There's a reason it took 80 years before we repealed Glass-Stegall, and let the bankers run wild in an orgy of debt growth and financialization.  Nothing new under the sun - when the hard-won wisdom dies with the people that learned it, we make the same silly mistakes all over again.

That's why we are going through this debt supercycle.  Nobody remains alive that remembers how badly they tend to end.

And yet I agree that these cycles - however poorly backed up by data, but that I believe are nevertheless present - will be overwhelmed by declining net energy and peak resources.  Big wave overwhelms smaller waves.

We have a demographics cycle, a generational/behavioral cycle, a debt cycle, and a war cycle.   We also have an empire cycle.  Superimposed on that, we have a one-time global resource cycle, which has a massive peak followed (presumably) by a decline as net energy drops along with it.

Although having said that - empires have had "lumber" super cycles, followed by "coal" super cycles, and now oil.  Once Italy was stripped of wood, Romans had a hard time.  Once England was out of coal, they did poorly.  Once the US hit max oil production in 1971, we too started having a much harder time.

And unless we get Arthur's LENR devices, there's really nothing to replace oil.

I do think the generational cycles have something to do with the willingness/ability of people on opposite sides of the fence to compromise in order to get stuff done.  Back in the day, the parties cooperated to pass laws and keep doing the business of the country.  That's just not happening now.

Quercus bicolor's picture
Quercus bicolor
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Joined: Mar 19 2008
Posts: 470
kids and limits to growth

Last night, I had clicked on aggrivated's link to Arthur's post from Neil Howe's previous podcast and then read down that thread as far as Arthur's next post which included the limits to growth plot of population, resources, etc. that we all know so well.  My daughters (soon to be 10 and 13) called me to find where they had hidden themselves in a darkened bedroom and I left the computer as it was.

When we finished (they were very cleverly hidden and it was a hilarious adventure finding them), they came out grabbed the computer and together were looking at the graph.  They called me over "Daddy, what's this?"  I simply said "It's the predictions of the limits to growth study from the early 1970's about what the world would be like for people over the next hundred years or so."  They had a few more questions but mostly they figured it out for themselves.  My older daughter pointed at the place where the death rate climbs rapidly about 2050.  She said "Daddy, how old will I be here?"  Together we figured out she would be about 50, as old as I am now.  My younger daughter realized she would be just a few years younger.  Next question:  "What has happened since 1970?  Are their predictions coming true?".  I told her to search for "limits to growth 40 years later."   She found the updated plot and realized we're closely tracking the 1970 prediction.  They were both angry, but in a calm sort of way (at least on the surface).  They really already knew this, but had never seen it depicted so clearly.  When I was tucking in my older daughter, she told me "at least when we hit this, you'll be and old man and can say 'I had a good life'.  If I have kids they're going to grown up just before this hits and I'll won't be that old yet."  I told her I knew and we discussed how to prepare for something like that and how to help others prepare and what we might be able to do now so it's not quite as bad.

It was quite an evening.  I'm still processing it and stewing on thoughts about where to go next with the conversation.

 

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Can we clone and widely distribute your experience?

Quercus bicolor: your post touched me in a very profound way, and I can well imagine how hard it must be to process that and determine how to move forward with your family.

Your experience with your daughters is one that I wish I could clone and replicate far and wide so as to put many more adults into the position that you are feeling this morning. It is the kind of message that hits home in such a real, tangible and impactful way. Perhaps the limits to growth chart should be on the wall of of every home, school and business along side the daily calendar, to provide a daily reminder that time is running out to change our ways.

Your daughters have suffered what I term an informational stab to the heart. I so feel for their young minds trying to process and make sense of this. In a way it is almost like receiving a medical diagnosis telling you that you only have so much time left. From a global societal perspective, we need more informational stabs to the heart as that seems to be the only thing that ever wakes people up.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I am going to share it with my siblings and friends who have children in the hope that it resonates with them and moves them to new mindset.

Jan

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yes, let's replicate that experience Jan.

Thank you Jan.  Reading your post inspired me to reread my post which brought the tears that I knew had to come before I could take the next step.  I'm going to start by sharing this with my coworkers today.  I just need to figure out the best way to do it.  Here is the 30 year update.  I haven't found a 40 year update yet.

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Some value in the questions.

Hugh:  I understand and pretty much accept your points about Howe and Strauss and their work on the turnings in history.  I would be happier if there were more hard scientific evidence backing up their claims as to how history "works".  In the meantime I find that accepting their works as a hypothesis which has yet to be proved or disproved gives me a different way of looking at history. I can use this as one of the mental tools I apply to situations in my search to understand what is happening and how things have come to be at the intersection where we seem to be standing. I find there is value in posing the question in various different ways as a means to help insure I have looked at all possibly relevant facts.

For anyone who has read the Foundation, Second Foundation and Empire science fiction trilogy (with two volumes added later,) by Isaac Asimov, what we need is a real life Hari Seldon with his psychohistory mathematics that could predict the ebb and flow of societies and civilizations.

JT

 

   

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informing our children

Thank you to Jan and Quercus.

Informing my children, who are now 8 and 10 about the future of their lives is something that I have been seriously contemplating for many years. They are generally aware that...
1. Dad is concerned with things that not many people speak about,
2. Dad thinks that things may be harder going forward,
3. Dad is concerned about the amount of wars that we fight.
4. And Dad left his office job (accounting and finance) and started making a lot less money as a farmer.

How do we communicate the remainder of our understanding of the world, while creating strong-minded, critical thinkers? How does one transmit this information and not overwhelm with negativity? How does one communicate it to them, and have the intellectual humility to leave room for the blind spots that We possess.

I suppose that is were faith manifests, and we just doe the best we can as the time is right.

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ITS THE PEOPLE STUPID!

Aloha! Yes, you cannot ignore the population in relation to anything on the planet. Even here in Hawaii during Capt Cook days the ancient Hawaiians practiced infanticide due to limited resources and of course it helped out to have a war now and then to trim the growth. In a tribal ag based society that was the cycle.

Fast forward to the Debt Era and every damn country from Ecuador to Europe and Afghanistan to America all have this "false signal" we know as debt whereby food production and R&D is increased and population is unchecked moving higher being fueled by debt. Debt is just a promise to pay later except when "later" finally comes!

At the studio our former news show Countermeasures with Rebecca Costa interviewed Neil Howe back in May 2014. Prior to the show Rebecca Costa spoke of the Arab Spring and Egypt and why the lesser Middle East countries are rioting. The answer seems easy for governments to figure out, but the cure isn't so easy unless you are ISIS. Here is the video show Countermeasures, with guest Neil Howe.

Certainly Obama seems to slip on this issue of late along with Reagan in the 1980s in terms of immigration and the issues with illegal aliens. Just as the USA is the reserve currency with seemingly unlimited debt issuance privilege our population certainly has increased as if we have unlimited resources. Perhaps the key factor missing from QBs charts is the "debt per capita". Add in "corruption per capita" which tracks "debt per capita" very closely.

From my view it seems governments like Switzerland and Australia who strictly control their borders and immigration policy will outperform in the long run. Countries like Egypt who have no restrictions on domestic birth rates or border movements will do poorly and I might add Egypt, as Rebecca mentions, already has limited domestic resources. Of course a few other factors are involved like "corruption". Anytime you have high debt levels it seems human nature kicks in and you also have higher corruption on all levels of society. The idea of "free money" tends to demean things like work ethics. People are the economy so perhaps Bill Clinton was on the right path, but what self-loving politician would ever say ITS THE PEOPLE STUPID? In private they all probably get selective dyslexia and say, "ITS THE STUPID PEOPLE!" It is human nature for us humans whether its procreation or money or politics. As humble a member of the human race as I am it's our biggest flaw ...

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futurology
jtwalsh wrote:

In the meantime I find that accepting their works as a hypothesis which has yet to be proved or disproved gives me a different way of looking at history. I can use this as one of the mental tools I apply to situations in my search to understand what is happening and how things have come to be at the intersection where we seem to be standing. I find there is value in posing the question in various different ways as a means to help insure I have looked at all possibly relevant facts.

For anyone who has read the Foundation, Second Foundation and Empire science fiction trilogy (with two volumes added later,) by Isaac Asimov, what we need is a real life Hari Seldon with his psychohistory mathematics that could predict the ebb and flow of societies and civilizations.

JT

Yes, JT, I agree that there is a lot of value in terms of looking at different hypothesis and frameworks in order to try to see something from as many different angles as possible.

I don't remember if I read all of the foundation trilogy or just book one (it's been a while...) but one thing I always wondered was if it really were possible to use something like psychohistory math in order to predict future human actions, wouldn't that imply that there was no such thing as free will?  

Whether that is true or not, we have the opposite problem in our civilization, as we make almost no effort to develop a comprehensive approach to the different possible trajectories that we face.  A few futurologists get some attention and often these (e.g. George Friedman, Michio Kaku, Ray Kurzweil) really only have half-baked forecasts that seem to ignore issues of energy supply or natural resource depletion.

Hopefully, some new energy tech will allow a Star Trek or Buck Rogers future soon, but it may be that our most prescient futurologists turn out to be Miller, Atwood, Bacigalupi, or - God forbid - McCarthy.

Probably the most down-to-Earth futurologist we have is Lester Brown.

Still, what Arthur and others have said recently about the close relationship - at least on a quantum level - between what we think and the physical world suggests that things could take a turn for the much better and I certainly haven't closed that door.  Maybe our own consciousness is the best gateway no matter the era or the trajectory. 

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What to Expect...

No disrespect to Mr. Howe, but I believe that the LTG will rip many of these assumptions to shreds.

Expect the unexpected.

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Howe and Club of Rome not Mutally Exclusive

Yes, Howe's theory is more qualitative than quantitative, which makes it more difficult to falsify, but numbers without a narrative never tell the entire story. As an empirical foundation there is, of course, the grounding of Fourth Turning theory in the human lifecourse. More than being qualitative, I think that the weaknesses of Howe's theory are that it lacks cross-cultural analysis and sufficient time depth. It is concerned with American History, a period of time after the industrial revolution in which resource use and population were gradually (though exponentially) increasing. Incorporation of other contemporary societies' data, or with Roman or other well-studied ancient populations might give additional insights.

Yet I don't think that the hypotheses of Howe and the Club of Rome are mutually exclusive. Even if fracturing states, chaos and relocalization reigned for a decade, those who emerged from that would have strong (probably local) institutions, high solidarity, and optimism that the worst was over, that the storm had been weathered or that the end to suffering is imminent. This optimism doesn't even need to be rational or empirically grounded. Millenarian or eschatological religions (or in our future case potentially a quasi-religious deep ecology belief system) can play a leading role in this regard. As a case in point, the Toba hunter-gatherers (my professional expertise) reached a point of exceptional optimism in the 1940's and 50's immediately following their brutal sedentarization (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napalp%C3%AD_massacre). Why? Because the words of Pentecostal Christianity fell on ears ready to hear its eschatological message, and on hearts in need of ecstatic release offered by the trance and glossolalia of the religious ceremony. Despite their utter collapse and subjugation as a society, optimism and strong institutions reigned following a period of crisis which their society did not even truly manage to survive.

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Loving one's subjugation

Great post cgolias, you said;

Why? Because the words of Pentecostal Christianity fell on ears ready to hear its eschatological message, and on hearts in need of ecstatic release offered by the trance and glossolalia of the religious ceremony. Despite their utter collapse and subjugation as a society, optimism and strong institutions reigned following a period of crisis which their society did not even truly manage to survive.

So, do you think that if we get even more Kardashian spin-offs and maybe a longer football season, that we will continue to boil and smile while we cook to perfect doneness?  

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give them hope

More than anything, children need hope.  They need unstructured play time, especially outdoors in a natural setting.  They need opportunities to revel in beauty, a close friendship, pride of a job well done.  They need adventure, adult mentors who know just what to say (or not to say) to ignite their curiosity.  They need at least one adult who will listen to them without judging, ask just the right questions and tell just the right story to help them master that upright character trait they are working on (and developmentally ready for).

Scary problems like those pointed to by the limits to growth chart will not escape their awareness. When they ask us about them or we see that they are thinking about them, we can tell them what we know in a very matter-of-fact way.  We can answer every question they have, but we don't need to dwell on these scary stories.  Especially, we may want to avoid bringing them up in a dramatic and alarmist way.  (Unfortunately, school, tv, the internet and other adults tend to do this with them). 

The kids don't need drama, alarm, and repetition.  This creates hopelessness and all that can accompany it (distraction and escape, despair and paralysis, etc.).  They are young and not set in their ways, so they'll get the problem with a simple explanation.  What they need is hope, a good set of physical skills with which they can influence their outer world and (even more important) inner skills to process the strong emotions that often accompany difficult situations. They also need a whole lot of fun, adventure, and personal relationship with this earth and it's inhabitants to give them their inner skills.  I hope my children will have the strength, creativity and courage to face a very big set of problems in a way that will have a positive impact on them, their families, maybe their community and maybe even the larger society.

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cgolias wrote: Even if
cgolias wrote:

Even if fracturing states, chaos and relocalization reigned for a decade, those who emerged from that would have strong (probably local) institutions, high solidarity, and optimism that the worst was over, that the storm had been weathered or that the end to suffering is imminent.

I don't doubt that at some point human optimism will again reassert itself. My concern is that before we get to that point we are going to see a LOT of suffering and destruction. How are societies going to supply the energy and food needed to continue along in at least quasi stability, when the ability to provide those basic needs disappears?

Specifically one could argue that the recent surge of production from tight shale oil which was arguably not even profitable at $100 was a consequence of Wall Street ponzi schemes. Essentially, the rest of the world subsidized that production via the reserve currency status of the dollar which gives the banks the ability to work "magic" with printed dollars that would never be possible in a real monetary environment, and especially not in a world of more isolated factions of societies scraping by on more local resources. This just-in-time, highly efficient, mega-globalized system of trade will not last much longer I believe. This will tip the EROEI of fossil fuel extraction even closer to 1:1.

In the US I see oil production dropping off significantly sometime soon once monetary sanity reasserts itself. We will still have residual stripper well production for a while though. Natural gas production will likely follow suit a decade or two later. Coal in the US seems to be in limited supply. Without those things, mechanized agriculture will become very difficult. Non-mechanized agriculture will not be able to support current populations.

The only solution in the semi-long run, meaning maybe 50 -100 years, is population reduction. Canada still has quite a bit of coal and oil so it will be able to supply North America for a while, which then begs the question, will Canada even remain an independent country for long? Already as we speak we have this new Bill C-51 which basically gives unlimited powers to Canada's secret police service to do whatever they like to "terror" suspects, with of course very vague definitions that can be contorted to mean anything they want. It is slated to be passed at the end of March with virtually no discussion. The justification for this bill to protect our freedoms was a shooting at Parliament last October which seems to have been another orchestrated false flag event like Sandy Hook, the same actors came up from the US to execute it.

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Do your own math and see where you fit

My Grandparent's family:

two adults  - produce three children; 1920's (Flapper era)

three children  -  produce nine children; 1940's to 50's (Boomer era)

nine children  -  produce 19 children; 1970's to 1990's (Gen X and Y er's)

19 children  -   produce 17 children; 2000's to 2015. (Whatever your term)

Canada's birth rate 1.66  -  I believe the theoretical replacement rate needs to be around 2.1 to 2.2 . Canada is rethinking its immigration policy and has just canceled its temporary foreign worker program. Canada does not have enough people willing to man the McDonald's, Wendy's, etc. and is facing an estimated 20 to 25,000 shortfall in those job categories. Educated women tend to have fewer children. Canada just needs to import more educated women to run the fast food outlets in developed countries.Perhaps the solution is to educate more women and send more testosterone laden males to the Ukraine, ISIS or other conflict laden areas. I know I'm sounding facetious, but if we were to use our brains, we might be able to resolve our predicament. Otherwise the four Horsemen will do a bang-up job for us.

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Dr Dave to UncleTommy

First, I am not Dr Dave--that would be my dad.  He was an old school (graduated in 1924) medical doc who spent a lot of time dealing with public health matters.  He often said it was his opinion that the success of doctors had caused more problems for the world that had been solved and what the world needed was either more wars or pandemics to fix some of what medicine had unwittingly caused.

On the flip side, if we lose fossil fuels as a primary source of energy,  animals and people will have a lot more to do in the future world.  It takes a lot of mule team wagons and drivers to even equal one semi.

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Pandora's Box

I guess this is a good place to ask this question: how do you deal with the Pandora's Box you open after you accept that our reality is manufactured by the government? Once you accept 9/11 for what it is then that opens up a whole trail of conspiracy theories of varying plausibility and quality that get me questioning almost everything non-scientific I believe. But who am I to know otherwise? I have no real explanation for who is controlling society and for what purpose. And the evidence would seem to support most of these conspiracy theories if one cares to look without bias.

How far do you go? Or do you just accept that you won't know and leave it at that, and just shut off all of mainstream and live your life? Some of the conspiracy theories seem to go quite far and it's probably not appropriate to specifically talk about them here. But they identify repeating cycles which has relevance to this discussion.

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aggrivated

get the mare bred (I'm going to harp on this husbandry thing for a while) and teach the children that there is joy in the act of husbandry

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Optimism and transformation

We tend to be very materially focused here and for many good reasons.  I have a very different perspective, one based on the primacy of idea and spirit, which I believe are the progenitors of the material world.  Perhaps this a perspective born of the sixties and seventies, before things decayed into sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Nothing wrong with those things in there proper place of course, but to me they were the more ephemeral expressions of a deeper transformation that was sweeping society.  There was a not so subtle awaking of consciousness, some who I think wrongly put the emphasis on the use of psychedelic drugs, that was primarily the result of eastern spiritual traditions finally rattling Descartes cage.

We finally broke through a dark material determinism that had us in a near death lock, the result of which created a cultural exuberance that resulted in some unfortunate excesses, but transformed us as a planetary culture.  Writers of the times and those who's works created the fertile bed the decades before, like Teilhard de Chardin were transformed by thoughts of the spiritual evolutionary possibilities of mankind. Material progress and the limitations there of were finally understood, but the possibility of a transformed human being had everybody transfixed.  The realization that there was another view of reality, one not dominated by the past, but of an optimistic future, despite the current cultural turmoil.

The fringe is becoming the center and the centers of power are slowly being relegated to the fringes.  The darkness, corruption, inequity has always been all about us.  The nation state has always been this bad, the media this filled with propaganda.  The pending catastrophe has always been around the corner, we were just not aware of it.  The odds have always been this bad, things always this ugly, but we have made it through before, this time we are going to do it consciously.

One of the best culture historians I have every read is William Irwin Thompson.  He can get it little obscure and academic at times, but some of the titles I really enjoyed were "Passages about Earth", "At the Edge of History" and "Darkness and Scattered Light".  This is a very in depth look a the nature and structure of human culture throughout time and a detailed study of what the implication of are of current events. Our reference points have become to close together which is creating to much psychic instability. We must broaden our perspective or will become drowned the growing amplitude of the current changes. Our reference points must stretch out way beyond the few recent generations of a already very dysfunctional narcissistic culture.  We are in the process of transcending this dying culture, time to let it go.

 

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On Hope and Children

One of the most profound pieces of advice given to me regarding the raising of children (and probably children that have been raised) was that 'Children never ask a question unless they are ready the hear the answer.'  I think that is why I paid so little attention in many of my elementary through high school classes---I wasn't interested in answers to questions I never wanted to ask.

Much of our formal education seems to produce what Harry Potter would call 'stupefied' adults.

However, it sounds like your approach with kids is much like an engineering curriculum.  One of the best effects of an engineering degree is the skill set that it develops to solve problems. You must be bent on raising a generation of engineers to solve the problems of our future world. Give them experiences that stimulate their desire to ask their own questions. Overwhelm whatever formal education they have gotten. Go for it!

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Pandora's Box

Mark_BC,

Interesting you ask this question.  My favorite BIL and I were discussing this very issue.  He stated, "Once your eyes have been opened, you can never go back."  And he added, "I don't know whether to thank you or curse you."

As to what to believe and why things happen as they do, I can't help much.  As you stated, 911 was a wake up call.  Anyone with an 8th grade education should know the odds of 3 buildings collapsing free-fall, in their own footprint, are  incredibly miniscule.

I now have a jaundiced view of almost every happening, new rule or regulation, law, financial advice, even religious doctrine I'm exposed to.  I believe it was Chris who coined the phrase, Massive Systemic Corruption. And that is how the world works these days-and maybe always has.

Growing up as a farm kid it never dawned on me why the cattle buyer always has a new Buick or Cadillac and a brand new truck and John Deere tractors.  Why did the auctioneer have a brand new truck and drive fancy new cars?  Why were the auction clerk from the bank and the local attorney who bought the widow's farms best buddies?  The answer is because these people were Predators and there was EASY, fast money to be made.  This is how its done on the local level.  Imagine what happens on the state level, and then multiplied by exponential numbers, on the federal level.

I have given you no answer, but want you to know that you are not alone in asking how far do you go down the conspiracy road, if at all.  I'm afraid that if you have an inquisitive mind you will have much difficulty ignoring what you intuitively feel to be true.

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Pandora's Box: Catherine Austin Fitts talk

I sure relate to the comments of Mark_BC and Hotrod above.  Once a person becomes very certain that 911 was a fabricated event, then what?  How many other things we believe to be true are just not so?

Catherine Austin Fitts has developed a unique perspective that includes a massive entirely secret global governance structure.  At this conference they are calling this group The Breakaway Civilization.

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need for secrecy

Here's the ultimate truth: if "they" were all powerful, they wouldn't need to keep things secret.

The more conscious we all are, the less we will be tricked into going along for the latest ride.  And the more people that become conscious, the less powerful "they" will be.

I had my eyes opened to a simple thing many years ago: the construction of news stories, by Wall Street, to manipulate the public into doing their bidding.  They use news to get us to buy at the highs, and sell out at the lows.  Of course if they were all powerful, if all they needed was to run sophisticated algorithms to move the market wherever they wanted it to be, they wouldn't need to resort to silly tricks like that.

This sort of thing pervades society - operating in secret using influence rather than control, because actual control is impossible.  We, the people, always set the trend.

Resisting the cultural programming takes work.  More importantly, it takes being first conscious of the programming, and then deciding for yourself where you want to go.

We don't need to storm barricades.  We just need to wake up.

 

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Pandora's Box
Mark_BC wrote:

I guess this is a good place to ask this question: how do you deal with the Pandora's Box you open after you accept that our reality is manufactured by the government? Once you accept 9/11 for what it is then that opens up a whole trail of conspiracy theories of varying plausibility and quality that get me questioning almost everything non-scientific I believe. But who am I to know otherwise? I have no real explanation for who is controlling society and for what purpose. And the evidence would seem to support most of these conspiracy theories if one cares to look without bias.

How far do you go? Or do you just accept that you won't know and leave it at that, and just shut off all of mainstream and live your life? Some of the conspiracy theories seem to go quite far and it's probably not appropriate to specifically talk about them here. But they identify repeating cycles which has relevance to this discussion.

What I do, is I go with what I can prove, what comports with the physical evidence, and what makes the most sense.  In this regard there are a variety of national narratives about major events that are flat out wrong.  I may not know what the right ones are, but I can tell you for certain the existing ones are false.

Next, I really do operate on trust.  Once you've violated my trust, I do not accept anything else from you at face value for a very long time.  Trust is earned, not given.  On this front, I accept nothing from the mainstream media because they have been caught red-handed, over and over again, flat out lying.

And not just some accidental junior reporter getting something wrong coupled to a sloppy editorial process.  I mean concerted, talking points style repetition of obvious falsehoods that have to be happening as part of a conscious program to deceive.

But I draw the line at the next stage where people, either for legitimate or illegitimate reasons, spiral off into the unprovable which is usually speculation about the 'who' and the 'why' of certain events.  There's not a lot of value in that for me, and I think it's where a lot of legitimacy is lost and where even the science and facts get tarnished by association.

The reason I devote time to trying to understand what has really happened is because they become our shared narrative and it is the story that drives everything.  Just look at how ISIS is now driving the next stage of our never-ending war machinery.  As soon as the populace tires of that, or it goes away, then there will be some other manufactured reason to keep spending a trillion or more per year on some other hobgoblin.

But if we didn't have that narrative of fear lodged near the beating heart of our nation, then ISIS would have no sway...after all, they are very far away and do not threaten US shores in the slightest.  And where did that narrative of fear come from?  In large measure from 9-11.  Thus it behooves us to ask very carefully if the narrative of 9-11 is true or false.  I can say without any doubt whatsoever the official story is complete hogwash.  It's scientifically impossible for the official narrative to be true, therefore it is false.

However, that is, unfortunately, all water under the bridge and at present the US has no national appetite for self-reflection and the truth (like a proper forensic examination of 9-11 with full subpoena powers) so I am preparing my life as if the US is going to have to live out its false narrative to some form of empire-busting conclusion.

The larger context is to always self-question your main narratives and assumptions to assure you've got the most robust ones in play.  On that front, our collective global narrative around endless growth itself fueled by fiat debt-based money, is utterly and scientifically unsupportable as a sustainable and workable idea.  But at present I see no evidence that the global community has any appetite at all for the self-reflection and truth necessary to shift out of that narrative and so I am preparing as if a global currency cataclysm is the conclusion to that particular false narrative.

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generational theory
cgolias wrote:

Yes, Howe's theory is more qualitative than quantitative, which makes it more difficult to falsify, but numbers without a narrative never tell the entire story. As an empirical foundation there is, of course, the grounding of Fourth Turning theory in the human lifecourse. More than being qualitative, I think that the weaknesses of Howe's theory are that it lacks cross-cultural analysis and sufficient time depth. It is concerned with American History, a period of time after the industrial revolution in which resource use and population were gradually (though exponentially) increasing. Incorporation of other contemporary societies' data, or with Roman or other well-studied ancient populations might give additional insights.

The above in bold is actually something I had been pondering for several years ever since reading The Fourth Turning.  They focus more or less on American history I know, but since their theory would apply to all humans to some extent, wouldn't it be reasonable to expand it to see how it might (or might not) apply to non-Western cultures?  Our family stretches between two nations/cultures in very different places in their respective generational cycles, yet how does the interaction of these and other cultures, especially in the highly connected information age, affect their respective generational trends?  Will their generational cycles 'sync up' over time?  Will one region's current fourth turning or crisis more or less envelop the entire world this time given the connected nature of the world and the now global race for resources?  I think Howe and Strauss were definitely onto something in their book, but it feels 'incomplete' for lack of a better word.  This is not a slam on the authors by any means and is not meant to diminish what they already accomplished, but rather I'm simply hoping that Howe works to further expand on this generational theory...

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Cross-Cultural Applicability and Conditions for Optimism
nickbert wrote:

 They focus more or less on American history I know, but since their theory would apply to all humans to some extent, wouldn't it be reasonable to expand it to see how it might (or might not) apply to non-Western cultures? [...]  Will one region's current fourth turning or crisis more or less envelop the entire world this time given the connected nature of the world and the now global race for resources?

I think that they stick to the American case because it is the authors' expertise and because American history is as stable as national histories have been over the time period considered. A quick look at Argentine history, Czech history, South African history, and Iraqi history shows no similar pattern. The pattern is also totally lacking from so-called traditional societies (e.g. !Kung, Masai, Quechua), who train their youth through rites of passage to more or less replicate previous generations. While Fourth Turnings might be a feature of the evolution of American society, it is a demonstrably untenable theory for the progress of human histories outside of the American context. As such, the more I think about it, the more it it may not necessarily apply if exogenous events disrupt its rhythm, i.e. it may be a good theory to explain the past, but may not be predictive of America's future.

I think this is what Mark_BC is asserting

Mark_BC wrote:

I don't doubt that at some point human optimism will again reassert itself. My concern is that before we get to that point we are going to see a LOT of suffering and destruction.  How are societies going to supply the energy and food needed to continue along in at least quasi stability, when the ability to provide those basic needs disappears? 

in his above post. I suppose what I was trying to get at with the Toba example is that optimism ebbs and flows sometimes in ways that do not align with material prosperity. Another case in point is the optimistic tone of Augustine's City of God, written at the veritable moment of Rome's fall, which is literally the end of the world as they new it. And just as Rome depopulated from around ~800k in 400 A.D. to ~100k by 500 A.D. (http://davidgalbraith.org/trivia/graph-of-the-population-of-rome-through...) so too might our cities--but the larger point is that there will be periods of both optimism and pessimism the whole way to the end of the Club of Rome graph, because sometimes strife creates optimism as a mechanism of hope to make perserverence possible. We talk here at PP about maintaining a narrative of personal optimism and abundance despite fewer resources. That is the essence of personal resilience.

Perhaps one cause of optimism, to respond to Jim H,

Jim H wrote:

 So, do you think that if we get even more Kardashian spin-offs and maybe a longer football season, that we will continue to boil and smile while we cook to perfect doneness?  

is that the existential search that crises occasion will probably rid us of Kim K, her escapades, and her new alien-looking face. What will replace the "bread and circuses"? Likely, something that tells people how to live and why they are here, despite the suffering. Sociologists of religion are fond of painting religion as an explanatory device to making suffering intelligible. For this reason, I suspect a reversal of secularization, and a revival of all religious/spiritual modalities--institutional, new, and personal.

Another cause for optimism is the growing body of research on permaculture, which suggests that such systems can achieve similar yields to conventional farms, but without substantial fertilizer/pesticide inputs, and without mechanization. A common critique of permaculture--that it is unsuitable to the industrial scale--may be the best part! if we can bring the arable land which is currently in a suburban holding pattern called a lawn gradually into production over the next few decades of descent. If one ascribes to a racheting down mechanism (see Greer The Long Descent) instead of a cliff, then a certain amount of optimism might still be warranted ;) I come to PP rather than zerohedge to feel a little less powerless in the face of such macroscopic risk, and what permaculture has to offer if widely evangelized is central to my personal narrative of tentative optimism. Then again, maybe it too is a cargo cult, but let's hope not!

 

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Background Reading for Cycles

Dave,

Have you got any recommendations with regards to reading material for studying these cycles? It's a subject i've been meaning to sink my teeth into for some time. The only thing i've read so far is the Fate of Empires by John Glubb.

All the best,

Luke

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Excellent thoughts CGolias-thank you

Your reflection on  the effect of different cultures on the fourth turning theory is important.  One of the primary changes that the industrialization brought to Western countries was a break down of the organic intergenerational woven structure of family.  Partly due to the rapid changes in technology and also the accompanying necessity of relocation the generations old skill sets became basically useless and were not passed on.  So, as a consequence there is a sine wave type of recurrence of cumulative mistakes in the economy and the culture.  Good thoughts on this subject, especially if we are looking at a deindustrialized future.

I would also like to urge any of you who have not delved into Permaculture more deeply to do so.  The basic beginning is to do a "Permaculture Design Course" (PDC).  This was until a few years ago a major time away from home commitment since most required an onsite week or two at a minimum.  Today there are two or three online versions that are very good.  The one I took two years ago was put on by Geoff Lawton. Here is an intro on his offering- http://permaculturenews.org/2013/05/08/tour-of-geoffs-online-pdc-and-farm/

One of the basic outcomes for me is that I now cannot look at a piece of land - suburban or rural- without trying to envision some food production on it.  The more of us who have this thought process imbedded the better able the culture will be to adopt this when it is needed.

 

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Not a maybe

Permaculture, which I am a big theoretical fan of, is a great philosophical framework to think about big picture issues.  Perhaps for a small area of an orchard space for experimentation, but has not proved itself practical at any rational scale yet IMHO.  There are much better practical examples of folks who have been making a living creating real production, that have proved already (nothing theoretical about it) that organic production is real viable alternative to the current industrial system.  Even that is understating the issue, localized organic production will necessarily need to come rescue of a collapsing fossil fuel based production which is not a maybe, which are little more than soil and water mining systems.  Guys like Coleman and Salatin are much better models for those aspiring to get into food production. Get a PDC by all means, but better off volunteering a well run CSA.

CAF and davefairtex summed it better than I have in all my lengthy babbling hear, "if your not in a conspiracy, you need to start your own", and "we don't need to storm the barricades.  We just need to wake up."  What else can be said, time to wake up and start our own conspiracies!

 

 

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permaculture

Interesting that you would bring this up treebeard....here is a recent self-critical discussion of just that perspective on permaculture.

 

http://www.permaculturevoices.com/podcast/critiquing-permaculture-a-deeper-look-into-permaculture-part-2/

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more cycles

Luke-

Hmm.  The thing that put it all together for me was Martin Armstrong.  His claims are out there regarding his AI but I think the basic philosophical approach is sound, especially about each type of thing in the world having its own cycle, and that all things interact to a greater or lesser degree, and the interference patterns that items have on one another makes it difficult to just analyze the cycle of one item and come up with an answer as to what will happen.

Here's a brief article he wrote recently that summarizes this.

http://armstrongeconomics.com/2015/03/17/complexity/

I look at correlations between markets (USD, gold, SPX, commodities), and he's right, if you do some math on the correlations some surprisingly regular patterns appear.  I haven't quite found the pony yet, but I think the little guy is in there somewhere.

Mostly, I think, cycles come from either the physical world, or from the way humans work.  How long does it take the average person to forget something relatively unpleasant?  4-6 years?  That's the business cycle.  How long will people hang onto hope - hope their house will sell for what they paid for it, for instance?  Then when it turns to dispair and they sell at the bottom, that marks the low.

How long will it take a society to forget something really unpleasant?  Perhaps 80 years?  Debt super cycle.

Banksters know about the cycles, and how to amplify the human emotions that tends to drive them.  That's why I try not to read too much news.  I don't need my emotions amplified, thanks anyway.

This echos something Chris said - knowing where we are in a cycle helps me to be patient with society.  Until the cycle turns, you can spend a whole lot of energy resulting in no action at all.  "How come nobody is listening?"  Or put another way, "why can't we have an adult-sized conversation about this critical issue?"

But then once the cycle shifts, suddenly no effort at all is required.

Take Greece.  The people there still cling to the dream of the Euro.  Its not yet time for a real change.  The cycle there is not complete.

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another mystery possibly solved: Patton

As a student of history his death always puzzled me.  We all have stories that we read about, and we think, "something doesn't ring true there."  This was one of them for me.

I haven't read the book, but the synopsis in the article sure resonated with me.  And it was right in line with our discussion here on mainstream stories and earned trust, etc.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/3869117/General-George-S.-Patton-was-assassinated-to-silence-his-criticism-of-allied-war-leaders-claims-new-book.html

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Texas: Cut off water and electricity to local NSA facility

I like this guy: A Texas state senator has introduced a bill to cut off the electricity and water supply to the local NSA facility in San Antonio.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) introduced House Bill 3916 (HB3916) on March 13. The legislation would prohibit any political subdivision in Texas from providing water or electricity to any federal agency "involved in the routine surveillance or collection and storage of bulk telephone or e-mail records of any citizen of the United States without the citizen's consent or a search warrant that describes the person, place, or thing to be searched or seized."

"No water and no electricity means no super-computers. That will shut down NSA operations in Texas. If Congress doesn't want to reform the NSA then we'll just turn it off."

I would have to describe this as "finding one's voice."

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The map is not the territory

The Limits to Growth chart crops up quite frequently and I think it's a really useful guideline. But I wouldn't plan my future based on it - the map is not the territory.

We know the oil curve is likely to be much steeper on the down-slope than originally depicted by Hubbert for various reasons that have become apparent in the mean time. Similarly the Club of Rome curves illustrate general trends but not necessarily the way they will unfold. For example it is assumed critical infrastructure will remain intact while resources run down. Tipping points resulting in rapid change or catastrophic breakdown are not part of the model.

All I'm saying is we can't count on having another generation before things really deteriorate. The real world is not that predictable.

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Fruit from a posionous tree.

Another piece of the reality jigsaw puzzle.

 

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How does howe support his comment?

parents and grandparents are benefitting from current policies...

Utter rubbish.

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Pandora and her problematic box

 

I very much appreciate the approach Chris is taking here at pp with regards to 9-11.  By stating only what clearly known to be true, the position can be explained and defended clearly.

This approach has the advantage that it can open the topic for the first time and can be defended against the initial waves of skepticism.   You can’t really argue your way out of “vertical collapse” and “free fall speed” and “the NIST fire-based progressive collapse computer model does not match observed reality” when the videos are viewed.

It is my experience here, that a little rent in the veil is likely to fall shut at this point unless a person then embarks on a major personal research effort to resolve the many points of cognitive dissonance that are created.

Pinecarr posted an article on this a few weeks ago (that I can no longer find!!) on the problem of not having a context to understand a particular deception.  A single small peak through the veil is a starting place, but doesn’t offer the context to construct a new understanding of how things are actually working.

At some point, understanding the world requires the big picture level be faced too, even though it may be unproven and the little evidence available is messy, contradictory and sparse.

Though I personally do not know 'who dunnit' or what the overall plan is, I believe that someone did and that they have some sort of strategy in play, and that the world would probably* be a better place if this were understood. 

I am agreeing with treebeard and DaveF on this:  We don't need to crash the barricades, we just need to understand, so that we are no longer deceived.

--------------

*CAF leaves open the possibility that "they" know something that we do not and that "they" are doing what is necessary for some reason that is not publicly known.
 

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Experiential Learning.....
sand_puppy wrote:

I very much appreciate the approach Chris is taking here at pp with regards to 9-11.  By stating only what clearly known to be true, the position can be explained and defended clearly.

This approach has the advantage that it can open the topic for the first time and can be defended against the initial waves of skepticism.   You can’t really argue your way out of “vertical collapse” and “free fall speed” and “the NIST fire-based progressive collapse computer model does not match observed reality” when the videos are viewed.

It is my experience here, that a little rent in the veil is likely to fall shut at this point unless a person then embarks on a major personal research effort to resolve the many points of cognitive dissonance that are created.

Pinecarr posted an article on this a few weeks ago (that I can no longer find!!) on the problem of not having a context to understand a particular deception.  A single small peak through the veil is a starting place, but doesn’t offer the context to construct a new understanding of how things are actually working.

At some point, understanding the world requires the big picture level be faced too, even though it may be unproven and the little evidence available is messy, contradictory and sparse.

Though I personally do not know 'who dunnit' or what the overall plan is, I believe that someone did and that they have some sort of strategy in play, and that the world would probably* be a better place if this were understood. 

I am agreeing with treebeard and DaveF on this:  We don't need to crash the barricades, we just need to understand, so that we are no longer deceived.

--------------

*CAF leaves open the possibility that "they" know something that we do not and that "they" are doing what is necessary for some reason that is not publicly known.
 

1.  What?  For argument's sake, let's say that the above captures the essence of the "what".  There is no more mileage to be made here.

2.  So what?

3.  Now what?

"...we just need to understand, so that we are no longer deceived." is NOT the answer for 2 or 3.  It's the new "What?"  Constantly changing what the "What" is wheel spinning - lot's of noise and smoke, but no traction and progress down track.

Which brings us back to:

2.  So what?

3. Now what?

Carry on....
 

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Maybe you'd care to defend
QQQBall wrote:

parents and grandparents are benefitting from current policies...

Utter rubbish.

 

Maybe you'd care to defend that.  If you do, I'll read it.  

I believe I've seen sufficient evidence to accept the broad premise, so if you have some basis for your rubbish comment, let's see it

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Kourik, Holmgren and Fukuoka

I had heard the quote from Kourik before, not familiar with the site you linked to.  The paragraph sums up my own feelings on the matter quite well.  It is funny that he put Fukuoka in the "cult" permaculture camp rather than the "smart" permaculture group.  I never did get a chance to visit his farm in Japan while he was alive, but I do remember him writing about westerners who showed up, enthralled with the idea of "do nothing" farming, until they realized how much work was involved, then they quickly disappeared.

Perhaps this is all part of the drunken energy stupor brought on excessive fossil fuel consumption for the past few decades that we have not yet recovered from.  Our collective expectations have become so out of alignment with reality it does defy belief sometimes. Lawton has done some amazing restorative work, but after listening to more of his lectures and work, he seemed have less and less to say to me and own need to continue to develop my own gardening/"permaculture skills.  I have read works from all the permaculture pantheon, Fukuoka, Kourik, Holmgren, Mollison, etc.  I do miss the days of the New Alchemy Institute, they put together well researched papers on practical matters of all kinds of alternative technologies and organic gardening techniques in their Journal of the New Alchemists.  I think you can still find used copies of those around if you hunt for them.

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Vilfredo Pareto

Following up on the cycles theme,

I've done a bit of digging and come up with the name Vilfredo Pareto and his book The Mind and Society which comes as a free download for those interested.

An introduction from the wiki page about him;

"He made several important contributions to economics, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals' choices. He was also responsible for popularising the use of the term 'elite' in social analysis."

and

"Pareto developed the notion of the circulation of elites, the first social cycle theory in sociology. He is famous for saying "history is a graveyard of aristocracies".[9]

Pareto seems to have turned to sociology for an understanding of why his abstract mathematical economic theories did not work out in practice, in the belief that unforeseen or uncontrollable social factors intervened."

Anyway, I’m going to plough through his book and see what nuggets lie within. On the face of it both of his theories listed above seem relevant to any cyclical nature in society.

All the best,

Luke

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cycles

England still has plenty of coal

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History and Circles.

As a lifelong lover and studier of history, global mostly rather than 'Murican history, I have to agree that history does in fact repeat itself. It repeats itself in that the cycles of one age often are cycles in another; civilizations rise and fall for remarkably similar - not usually exactly alike, but close enough - reasons. So I'll buy into this idea that a fourth turning could lead to a first turning, at least on the theoretical level of history.

 

However, and this is a BIG however, I have lived through the tail end of the most prosperous era in human history that has ever existed, according to multiple measures - energy production, consumption, population, scientific and technological advancement, production of almost everything humanly possible, etc etc - and the Voice of my Culture has whispered in my ear since birth that This Age of Humanity is BIGGER and BETTER than anything that has ever existed before...by an exponential, not incremental, factor. While it is debatable whether these last two hundred years have indeed been better, few would contest that it has not been bigger by an order of magnitude unseen in human civilization. So, drawing on my knowledge of the cycles and 'circles' of history, logic (and my gut) tells me that the end of this era will come with a commensurate collapse of the same exponential, not incremental, magnitude.

 

This is why I fear the future my children, at night when I am trying to sleep, and why I am preparing for the worst. I will most likely be dead within a decade or two, as will most everyone I love. I will live, prepare and fight for that NOT to be the case, but I have no illusions about what happens when a highly complex global civilization of over seven billion human beings comes crashing down around us; it will be ugly, brutal, and violent. We will come through it as a species unless we nuke ourselves into annihilation, and human beings will develop something sustainable in the next cycle, but I think that "first turning" very far off and with a lot - I mean a stupendously gargantuan amount - of human pain and misery in between. Then again, I'm a bit of a skeptical pessimist who has lived a life filled with spurious promises and outright lies from people with shiny smiles, so feel free to ignore me and call me on it. I can't help but feel that anyone who peddles a "brighter future" rather than a "very different one" is trying to sell me something, or is certifiably insane.

 

Fight for the best world while preparing for the worst world. 

 

-Snydeman

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been at this all my life

"Fight for the best world while preparing for the worst world." thanks Snydeman, robie

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