Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Closing the Collapse Gap

There’s a very interesting annotated presentation at “Closing the ‘Collapse Gap’: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US.” In it, Dmitry Orlov lays out his comparison between the USSR and the USA of 2006. Posting this now because a talk he gave at Long Now is getting lots of attention.

In closely related news, Maurizio d’Orlando lays out that U.S. debt approaches insolvency:

In 2007, public debt in the United States was 10.6 trillion dollars, compared to a GDP (gross domestic product) of 13.811 trillion dollars. Public debt in 2007 was therefore 76.75% of GDP. In just one year, direct and indirect public debt have grown to more than 100% of GDP, reaching 176.9% to 184.2%. These percentages exclude the debt guaranteed by policies underwritten by AIG, also nationalized, and liabilities for health spending (Medicaid and Medicare) and pensions (Social Security)[2]. By way of comparison, the Maastricht accords require member states of the European Union (EU) to reduce their public debt to no more than 60% of GDP. Again by way of comparison, in one of the EU countries with the largest public debt, Italy, public debt in 2007 was equal to 104% of GDP.

[Update: I’d meant to include both Bruce Sterling, “2009 Will Be a Year of Panic” and Rob Sama, “
The Federal Government Has Jumped The Shark

7 comments on "Closing the Collapse Gap"

  • David Brodbeck says:

    It’s been fun to watch the survivalists come out of the woodwork as the recession begins. Late-night radio hasn’t been this much fun since 1999, when they were all trying to convince us modern society would collapse on January 1, 2000.

  • Chris says:

    I used to think it was fun. Now it depresses me.

  • David Brodbeck says:

    I don’t. Mind you, I do think it’s kind of a shame that some people are being taken advantage of, for example by being talked into investing in gold. But I find the people who are stocking up for the collapse of civilization quite amusing. The future is going to look a lot more like Japan in the 1990s than like The Road Warrior.
    I knew one guy who was still using up his Y2K stock of toilet paper in 2004; there are going to be a lot of similarly embarrassed people in 2012. Especially the ones who thought the Mayans knew something we didn’t.

  • rhodeymark says:

    David Brodbeck: 1) The yen wasn’t reserve currency, and you obviously haven’t considered what the loss of that status might entail. 2) The Japanese had a savings rate that far exceeds ours. 3) Their trade imbalance was nothing like ours.
    4) Their society still had cohesion in crisis.

  • rhodeymark says:

    Well well – I thought better and decided to snip that last line, but the Internet said NO

  • Adam says:

    Thank you for thinking better of it. We’ll clean up for you.

  • David Brodbeck says:

    @rhodeymark: I understand your points, but there are mitigating factors. The world largely decoupled from the Japanese recession, leaving them on their own. That has decidedly not happened with the U.S. recession. Our currency has remained relatively strong, mostly because no one else is doing very well either. Your argument would be stronger if, say, Europe were still growing while we fell into recession.
    I think Americans may be more cohesive than you give them credit for. Time will tell. Japanese society is far more homogeneous but that and cohesiveness are not the same thing.

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