UPDATE: Great, another word press improvement! Now you have to TURN COMMENTS ON. They’re off by default. Sorry about that.
Perhaps it is because we’re looking for a house to buy that I’m very sensitive to the signs of economic downturn and economic “never got very well.”
This is actually the equivalent of being a middle school girl trying to figure out whether a boy likes you, and all the contradictory signs would drive you nuts.
I mean, we never had a summer of recovery, at least not here, and if you had to describe the situation of most of my friends after the crash of 08 it would be “diminished.” But diminished isn’t necessarily flat broke.
Someone — I think Doctor Pournelle — said that even if we were in as bad a situation as the depression, we wouldn’t experience it the same way because of all the cool gadgets we have.
When you become unemployed, no one comes over and takes away your computer, rips out your plumbing, impounds your mp3 player and makes sure you can’t buy even “new” used clothes.
And our society has so much surplus right now, that it’s hard to pinpoint what “poor” is, not in round income terms, but in “how you live” terms. Creative people can live much better if they’re willing to work for it/buy discount/shop smart. I should know, since we kept up with our two-income peers or exceeded them because I was willing to shop thrift stores for clothes, and buy used furniture which I refurbished, and cook everything from scratch.
Heck, even when the kids were little and we were pinched as h*ll, we even had cool tech. We just bought it on ebay one generation later. Which is why our first “ebook readers” were nokia planners at $15 a piece, one per kid/adult.
So… is recovery in full swing? Well, no. There’s stuff like the fact salaries never recovered, that places high and low (restaurants and stores) are closing, but bargains stores are thriving. There’s friends who lost their jobs and have yet to be able to find one, or have six month intervals between jobs.
None of this happens in a thriving economy. Our economy, at its very best is walking wounded.
However, when you go to places like zero hedge and they’re screaming about economic and civilizational collapse, you — or at least I — have to fight the impulse to roll your eyes. At least if you’re older than thirty.
As with climate-mageddon, we heard all this before with different “signs” of collapse.
The first time I heard “the end is coming and we’re all going to be eating our neighbors and returning to neolithic civilization” was in 86. I believed it then. Now… Well. How many times can you cry wolf?
And as I said before, I don’t believe in actually reverting to previous civilizational levels, because no collapsed society in our time has. But what are the chances we become, say, Lebanon? Or Venezuela?
I don’t know. Some of the signs and portents are very scary indeed. For instance, there is the international situation and a wounded bear dying for a rematch. There is China and North Korea and… Oh, yeah, Islam, all dying to take a swing at a confused giant. And we’re not projecting strength at any level.
And the economy… Well, sure. Hard times are much easier to weather. I know when I was TRULY broke before, what got to me was this: I couldn’t afford books, or TV or movies. So life was an endless slog. I remember getting the books used bookstores discarded, which ended up with me reading a lot of gothic romances in the nineties, because the library didn’t keep up with my reading habit. I remember those years when we had to plan for WEEKS to go to a dollar movie.
So we don’t feel it as much. But yes, we’re tight, and trying to find new places to cut, which is where we’ve been since 2008. And it’s gotten to the point I just have to make more money (Which is why there will be a lot of indie this year.)
OTOH we have two boys in college. On still the other hand, we’ve cut more than enough for that, and I’m making more than I did when we started this, so the “tight” is something else. Some of the pressure eased off when gas dropped in price, because produce and even meat went cheaper. And there will be some more easing during summer.
But here’s the thing: I look around and I go “I don’t believe in total collapse” and “I refuse to restrict my life in fear of a collapse that’s been predicted for 30 years,a t least.”
Otoh, we have the worst political class ever. And the economy is anemic. And the world situation doesn’t look good.
The thing is, if collapse happened, I’d kick myself. (Not a total collapse. I still don’t believe in that, but a bad collapse.) Because we’ve seen the signs and the harbingers, and why didn’t I do something more pro-active to prepare?
On still the other hand (there’s at least three) collapses aren’t that fast, and this slow eating away at our comfort margin is SLOW. So for someone who is fifty and little, possibly irrelevant.
Which door do I open? The dame or the tiger? Who knows? And the contradictory harbingers don’t reveal anything.
Predicting the future is hard, particularly because it’s not happened yet. So we try to cushion ourselves both way. And maybe we’ll get lucky.
The thing to remember is that i you can react quickly and well it’s sometimes better than preparing for specific things that never happen.
So have plan a and b and c and d and f just in case, but don’t live as if the apocalypse (other than snowmageddon) is on top of us.
That’s what I’m doing.