Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Silver Lining

The economic clouds are gathering and the approaching storm reminds me of the "derecho" we experienced here in the mid-atlantic on the 29th of June.  I have been in hurricanes, near tornadoes, inundated by tropical storms in Africa, swamped by Monsoons in Bangladesh but this was unlike any storm I have ever been in.  80 mph sustained winds with almost no rain.  We will be even more surprised by the impact of what is coming over the next two years.  No, it will not be as sudden as the derecho which arose out of the west in less than a minute.

We will see instead a series of events that will creep over us like a plague over days weeks and months and we will be left wondering when it all began?  Did it begin in 1913 when insurance tycoons gathered in secret to craft a system (The Federal Reserve) for parking their huge cash surpluses from the life insurance craze? Did it begin when the world's currencies got pegged to the dollar At Bretton Woods?  Did it begin when we started going to war using a credit card?  Or should we look to the turn of the century day when the barriers between banks, insurance companies and finance institutions were illegally breached only to be validated by congress?  Or did it begin with Quantitative Easing?  Or QE 2?  Or QE 3?

As of today, QE 3 is only a rumor and the Greeks are still accepting bailout funds, and China is still hanging in there as a major creditor and the price of gold and silver are moving sideways.  Will there be a defining day in 2012 that we say this was it?  Or in 2013 after the inauguration of the president?  It really doesn't matter.  What matters is that the day of reckoning will come and the time to start preparing for that is today.

If you take anything away from this, know this.  Fiat, debt based, paper currency has no intrinsic value.  None.  When the mountain of debt backing it gets too large it will crash into a spiral of hyperinflation that will decimate the imagined "wealth" of most of us.  I do not scorn the person who uses some of this paper money to set aside some silver or gold coin for trading in a future day.

And the American Silver Eagle coin is perhaps the very thin silver lining to the very dark cloud roiling on our horizons.  Because the historic ratio of gold to silver (16) is now over 50, silver has more upside than gold.  And it has industrial value in addition to a history of being viewed as money.  And it has germicidal properties that make it a metal of the future where antibiotics are losing their punch.  And it is priced low enough to be a more convenient means of exchange in a world where wheelbarrows are too small to haul the paper needed to buy a pair of shoes.

Perhaps a more subtle silver lining to the cloud is time.  We have been given more time to prepare than many expected.  Tactics are being employed (is this an election year?) that will ultimately make the crash more severe but it does give those who take heed some room to maneuver.  So what are the economic steps we can take to prepare?

   1.  Shift assets from cash to physical assets.
   2.  Shift from cash to productive assets such as solar collectors, garden tools, fruit trees, etc.
   3.  Reduce debt.  (this assumes that distancing ourselves from the system outweighs the advantage
        of paying back of our debt using cheaper dollars.)
   4.  Reduce energy dependence by lowering consumption while creating alternative sources.
   5.  Lower our cost of living by lowering dependence on processed food, eating out less, reducing cable.
   6.  Consolidate our fleet of vehicles.
   7.  Cultivate community. (is moving house an option?)

We have been given more time but how much?  I don't know.  I am simply astounded that warning bells are going off from every tower and the people below are scurrying along as usual.  Could I be simply wrong and there will be no crisis?  I hope so.  But as I said in my opening article, the things I do to prepare will stand to benefit within any scenario except perhaps rampant mob violence.  

We will turn next to taking a look at energy.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How Then Shall We Live

Future Fear is rampant.  Some are heading for the hills but for most this is just not a viable option.  Some are heading to the garden to become more self sufficient in food but are finding themselves still tied to the grocery store for most of their daily needs.  Some are buying silver coins to secure their buying power into an uncertain future.  Some are oblivious to the storm clouds that are so visible for many of us (I call them the “panmillenialists,” it will all pan out in the end).  Some are just hunkering down with a sense of dread.

I am introducing this blog with the thought that we do not need to know how drastic our lifestyle adjustments will need to be to cope appropriately with the change that is coming.  There is an alternative to Future Fear.  We do not need to agree on the significance of the Mayan Calendar, the timing of the collapse of the dollar, the efficacy of silver coinage, or the relevance of peak oil and whether or not it is trumped by Global Warming.  We can instead reconsider our past to instruct our future.  We can make choices that reflect our values without knowing what the future holds.

There is nothing more important about our past than the values that have been passed down to us.  How do we value education?  Is it a tool to attract more monetary wealth or does it have intrinsic value? How do we view religion?  Is it a pathway to life beyond the grave or a map to guide our journey in the here and now?  How do we view government?  Is it here to protect and provide or is intended to plan and guide?  How do we value the earth?  Is it a resource put here for us to exploit or a heritage to which we owe protection?  Health and medicine, food and diet, housing and neighborhoods, means of travel, war and peace, the list goes on and on.  We are, in fact, saturated with values that run so deeply in our cell memory as to be indistinguishable from truth.

Our goal here is to employ critical thinking skills to differentiate between accepted norms and intrinsic values.  Can we critically view our schools, hospitals, power plants, churches, political parties, banks and insurance companies and realign the norms to better reflect what we truly value?  This is harder than it sounds.  Only a tiny sliver of our population has made the effort to challenge the very basis of our education system, for example, and yet the evidence that it has been manipulated by industrialists is overwhelming.  I begin then, with the assumption that only one out of ten can make the leap to reconsideration of what we have been led to believe.  I hope I am wrong but in any case I also believe that a motivated five percent can alter the path of  the world.  And a motivated person can speak up and be heard by that five percent.

So this brings us back to the question in the title, “How Then Shall We Live?”  My thesis that we do not need to agree on prophetic vision stands.  We do however need to find ourselves in some agreement on what we determine our intrinsic values to be and seek to align those values with our choices.  We need to walk the walk.  If we cannot agree as a society what those intrinsic values are then we need to agree as members of the five percent.  And if that goal seems elusive then we need to focus on doing it for ourselves.  We need to align our own actions, artifacts and priorities with our own intrinsic values and lead rather than follow.

My conclusion is that by Visualizing Intrinsic Value Alignment (VIVA) we can embark upon a journey that is appropriate for all prophetic outcomes.  For me this means I want to grow more of my own food.  Will that serve me and my family if the world economy falls apart?  Yes.  Will it still serve me if we muddle on much like we have for the last five years? Yes.  Will it serve if energy becomes scarce?  Yes.  I cannot imagine many scenarios where growing more of my own food will not be of great benefit to my well being.  I can then cast aside Future Fear and live according to my intrinsic values which assumes of course my values align with a system of productivity in community and not with derivatives and fiat currency.

The process of discovery of intrinsic values will cover many fields.  I will begin with seven that will no doubt be augmented by those who chose to enter in and expand the conversation: economics, education, ecology, food, energy, innovation and religion.  Along the way we will explore new paradigms in each field and hopefully come up with some that reach across disciplines.