- What are the big systemic trends that will impact our personal prosperity?
- Realizing why the future will have less of everything
- Strategies for thriving with less
- The importance of owning & managing capital
If you have not yet read Part 1: If Everything's Doing So Great, How Come I’m Not? available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.
In Part 1, we asked 30 questions as a means of assessing whether individuals and households are doing better or worse than they were 10 years ago (2007) and 16 years ago (in 2000)—before the dot-com meltdown recession and the Global Financial Meltdown recession of 2008-09.
Identifying Systemic Trends
These questions attempt to sort out generalized decay that affects everyone—declines in purchasing power, quality of goods and services, etc.—from declines in individual/household health, well-being and financial security.
The questions also attempt to sharpen our awareness of systemic trends: are our prospects brightening or dimming? Are government services improving or declining as our taxes increase?
General trends manifest in different ways in each community/region. For example, the city and county of San Francisco is booming, with strong growth of population (866,000 residents), jobs, rents, housing valuations and tax revenues. Yet even as the city and county of San Francisco’s annual budget swells to an incomprehensible $9.6 billion—larger than the budgets of many U.S. state governments, and four times the annual budget of the city and county of Honolulu, with 998,000 residents—the homeless problem in San Francisco becomes ever more intractable, intrusive and disruptive, despite tens of millions of dollars devoted specifically to improving the options available to the homeless.
This is an example of larger trends that manifest in one way or another in the majority of communities: increasing costs and complexity, diminishing returns on money spent, frustration by taxpayers receiving unsatisfactory services as tax revenues increase, and problems that continue to worsen regardless of how much money is thrown at them.
There are many causal factors driving these trends of decay, rising costs and diminishing returns: a state-cartel system of regulatory capture that enforces cartels and limits competition; rising complexity of regulations that result in reduced productivity and higher costs; a “vetocracy” (Francis Fukuyama’s term) in which special interests can veto any measure with their political clout that impinges on their wealth and power; central bank monetary policies that enrich the wealthy and strip interest income from everyone else; and government manipulation of statistics and markets to manage perceptions—in effect, ignore your lying eyes and believe us: everything’s going great!
Then there's the shadowy monster in the room…