COVID-19 Thoughts 2

Thanks for all your kind words and comments. For right now, at least, I’m all right financially, so any extra money you have lying around, please donate however you can to those who are on the leading edge of this crisis. I’ll return to this at the end.

1. Work hours

I saw an amazing statistic recently: if the average U.S. worker stayed home for two solid months, they would still have worked the same number of hours as the average German worker.

As the kids say, I can’t even…

What are all those extra hours getting us?

Germany is a rich country, after all. Despite working less hours, they are still able to extend health care coverage to all of their citizens. There are no medical bankruptcies, either. And so, I ask again, what exactly are we getting for all those extra hours?

I think you can guess the answer. Someone is benefiting from those hours, but it’s not the workers themselves.

2. Neoliberal health care

The United states has struggled with procuring adequate medical supplies and having enough hospital beds. In this, we’re not unique—many counties around the world are also struggling.

But there is a critical difference. The difference is, the United States spends almost twenty percent of it’s GDP on health care. The most recent statistics I’ve seen are 17 percent.

Put another way, more than one out of every six dollars in our economy is spent on health care. Seventeen cents out of every dollar exchanged goes to health care. Here are the 2018 statistics from the OECD:

No other country is even close. The next highest is Switzerland with 12 percent. And the irony is, when it comes to public (i.e. “taxpayer”) money, the spending of the U.S. and Switzerland is pretty much the same!

How does health spending in the U.S. compare to other countries?

The above page also shows that we pay *double* the expenses per capita of the OECD average.

So we should theoretically be the *most* prepared country in the world, right. Right?

Where is all that extra money going?

Clearly it’s not going to more beds, more hospitals, more doctors, more equipment, cheaper drugs, or more patient care.

No, once again, I think you can see where this is going: the only beneficiaries are a tiny sliver of well-placed elites at the apex of the system who make out like bandits, not the people whom the system is hypothetically designed to serve. Because every necessary civic function in America is based on grift (see also: education, finance).

Related, see this tweet:

Recall my post about Neoliberalism: that only markets can allocate things efficiently is the core animating idea of Neoliberalism. And that competition drives efficiency. Well, we see how well that’s working now, don’t we? Case in point: rather than a coordinated, centralized virus response across the country, it appears that states are having to bid against each other for necessary supplies in the private market:

Only a portion of the medical supplies being flown in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency from overseas are being allotted to critical hotspots prioritized by the agency and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The rest will resupply the private market, where competition between states and the federal government has been a source of frustration for governors trying to shore up equipment to treat patients with coronavirus, according to multiple officials.

The Trump administration has touted the incoming flights, billing them and the equipment they’re bringing in as a reprieve to states desperate for supplies. But states are not the sole recipients of the equipment, according to a FEMA spokesperson. Supplies will also be sent to the private market, where states have been in fierce competition with each other to get hold of hard-to-come-by supplies.

Only some medical supplies from overseas going directly to coronavirus hotspots (CNN)

Supplying these private sector distributors seems quite problematic for at least a couple reasons, to put it mildly.

First is that there’s no clear mechanism to allocate these supplies on the basis of need based on a coherent national plan or framework. Secondly, it opens the door to massive profiteering. Even if companies aren’t technically gouging, that’s what bidding is. And you really can’t call this a legitimate private sector market if every state is having to bid with private companies to secure medical supplies during a historic national health emergency. The private sector rationale is also undermined if the US military has taken over a significant part of the fulfillment process.

You Need to Look at This (Talking Points Memo)

This is something states have been doing with businesses and jobs since the 1980’s under neoliberalism, after all. States would compete against one another as to who could offer businesses and corporations the most tax breaks, subsidies and giveaways, along with who could legally give the least support to workers in terms of benefits and salaries. The federal government, instead of putting a stop to this race to the bottom or at least ameliorating it, just let it rip in the name of market efficiency.

Now they’re competing for masks and ventilators to save lives. Because markets.

Let me see if I’ve got this right. The Federal government essentially forces states to bid against one another, because that’s how capitalism is supposed to work (?) and then, the winning state has what it has won in the bid confiscated by the Federal government so that the supplies can be distributed by private entities because that’s how capitalism is supposed to work (?). This would seem to make the communism of the USSR look like a model of efficiency.

Gee, I wonder why:

Republican fundraiser looks to cash in on coronavirus (Politico)

How much blood will Neoliberalism have on its hands? And will anyone remember?

3. Oil

I’m really stunned right now that the price of oil may go to $0.00. That is people may pay you to take the oil off their hands. You can pump the stuff out of the ground, but if no one wants to use it and there is no place to store it, it is ultimately useless. Maybe store it underground?

This oil glut is creating a scenario where some obscure grades of oil already have actually dropped below zero. For instance, a Wyoming crude grade was recently bid at negative 19 cents a barrel, Bloomberg News reported last week.

Shrinking storage capacity means that oil producers in some cases have to pay someone just to take the barrels off their hands.

“The price is trying to go to a level to force companies to keep the oil in the ground. If it has to go negative to incentivize that behavior, then it will,”…

Subzero oil prices are certainly bizarre, but there is some limited precedence in the energy market.

Last year, US natural gas prices in West Texas traded in negative territory for more than two weeks because there were not enough pipelines to carry the gas away, Reuters reported.

The world could soon run out of space to store oil. That may plunge prices below zero (CNN)

Imagine if I had predicted back in 2008-2009 that not only would we NOT be out of oil, but that it would be practically free. That is would be at historic lows. That you practically couldn’t give the stuff away.

You would have thought I was insane. Peak Oil people would have laughed in my face.

Imagine, then, if I had also predicted that in 2020 there would be another Great Depression; that it would be global in scope; that U.S. domestic GDP would be cut in half, that unemployment levels would go to 30 percent, and that barter would make a comeback.

Those very same people would have said, “Yes, of course that’s going to happen!” That’s exactly what a lot of the Peak Oil experts were predicting would happen, after all.

But of course, none of the above was caused by a lack of oil. Quite the opposite.

And, on top of that, two of the major oil producing countries have actually increased their production, against any reasonable semblance of logic. There is a lot of speculation as to why, but from what I can tell, no one is exactly sure. The most popular theory is that Russia and Saudi Arabia want to put U.S. shale and tight oil companies out of business. These companies have apparently been unprofitable since their inception.

No one, and I mean no one, predicted that.

Nobody predicted this level of demand destruction.

And this leads us to the perils of prediction.

This was a problem I had with a lot of the end-of-the-world scenarios all the way back when they started to become popular during the first decade of the twenty-first century. A lot of Peak Oil experts and pundits were so sure they knew exactly what was going to happen. There was no doubt in their minds whatsoever. They even published books and put up web sites telling us exactly how it was going to play out.

They were wrong, of course.

Oh, they weren’t wrong about the basics. Fossil fuels are a finite resource. They won’t last forever. The earth isn’t making more of them on any timeline that would be useful to us. And our entire industrial civilization is predicated on us using vast amounts of them, without which the modern industrial way of life would be impossible. But how it played out in the real world was not linear at all from the above facts. Wikipedia summarizes:

Since the oil price peaked about US$147.50 in summer 2008 many projects have been brought online, and domestic production increased from 2009 to 2015. In 2012 the oil production of the USA increased by 800,000 barrels, the highest ever recorded increase in one year since oil drilling began in 1859. The US had recently increased its oil drilling location as it has passed Saudi Arabia and Russia. Oil-bearing shales in North Dakota and Montana are producing increasing amounts of oil. As of April 2013, US crude production was at a more than 20-year high, since the shale gas and tight oil boom; production was near 7.2 million barrels per day. Peak production was 10,044 barrels per day in November 1970. A second, but lower peak of 9,627 barrels per day was achieved in April 2015.

Now all those shale oil and tight oil extractors are going bankrupt. How will this play out? Nobody knows. According to some estimates, we may be reaching Peak Oil demand. If that’s the case, then a collapse of industrial civilization would appear unlikely. If demand continues to stay at a lower level due to a combination of societal factors induced by the pandemic such as working from home and traveling less, along with governments getting serious about reducing carbon in the atmosphere, we may have averted a crisis, even if fossil fuels are inevitably set to decline.

Oil wells responsible for almost 1m barrels a day may have already been shut down because the price of oil is now lower than the cost of shipping it, according to US banking giant Goldman Sachs, with the number of wells growing “by the hour”. This is likely to “permanently alter the energy industry and its geopolitics” and “shift the debate around climate change”, said Jeffrey Currie, head of commodities at the bank.

Demand for oil has plummeted as the coronavirus locks down people in their homes and airplanes on runways. “The virus will bring forward peak demand for fossil fuels,” said Kingsmill Bond, at analysts Carbon Tracker. This latest cyclical oil shock is hitting an industry already heading towards a structural peak created by nations committing to net zero future emissions, he said.

“As for the impact of the virus on the timing [of peak demand], it depends of course on the severity,” he said. In 2018, Carbon Tracker estimated peak demand would come in 2023 but Bond said it was possible that the crisis has advanced this by three years. “That means that peak emissions was almost certainly 2019, and perhaps peak fossil fuels as well,” he said. “It will be touch and go if there can be another mini-peak in 2022, before the inexorable decline begins.”
While the oil companies themselves have long argued peak demand is too far off to put a number on, most observers thought it would happen this decade. Mark Lewis, head of climate change investment research at BNP Paribas, agreed the crises could bring it closer.

Will the coronavirus kill the oil industry and help save the climate? (Guardian)

4. Pollution

I’ve already pointed out the benefits of the economic shutdown in terms of less pollution. While reports of dolphins swimming in the canals Venice appear to be inaccurate, all over the world the lifiting of the pollution cloud has led to a glimpse of a world with less frivolous economic activity in the name of growth for growth’s sake.

I thought this was interesting:

Jalandhar Residents Wake up to View of Himalayan Range as COVID-19 Lockdown Leaves Air Cleaner (News18)

Leaving aside the deleterious effects of particles on lung health, what is a view of the Himalayas worth? What price can be put on it? Is it worth more than the economic activities that generate all the pollution that takes away the view produce?

That’s a clunky way of saying that pollution itself is a cost. Like Herman Daly said, there’s wealth and illth, and illth needs to subtracted from wealth to get a true accounting of the benefits of growth.

And the carbon reduction we should have been doing all along has been effected by the economic shutdown:

“I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 5% or more drop in carbon dioxide emissions this year, something not seen since the end of World War Two,” Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University in California, told Reuters in an email.

“Neither the fall of the Soviet Union nor the various oil or savings and loan crises of the past 50 years are likely to have affected emissions the way this crisis is,” he said.

A U.N. report published in November found that emissions would have to start falling by an average of 7.6% per year to give the world a viable chance of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5C, the most ambitious Paris goal.

“I don’t see any way that this is good news except for proving that humans drive greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kristopher Karnauskas, associate professor at the Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Coronavirus could trigger biggest fall in carbon emissions since World War Two (Reuters). So much for denying that humans have any effect on the atmosphere.

Of course,

…the improvements are for all the wrong reasons, tied to a world-shaking global health emergency that has infected more than 950,000 people – while shuttering factories, grounding airlines and forcing hundreds of millions of people to stay at home to slow the contagion. Experts warn that without structural change, the emissions declines caused by coronavirus could be short-lived and have little impact on the concentrations of carbon dioxide that have accumulated in the atmosphere over decades.


The coronavirus pandemic is shutting down industrial activity and temporarily slashing air pollution levels around the world, satellite imagery from the European Space Agency shows.

One expert said the sudden shift represented the “largest scale experiment ever” in terms of the reduction of industrial emissions.

Readings from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite show that over the past six weeks, levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over cities and industrial clusters in Asia and Europe were markedly lower than in the same period last year.

Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester, predicted there will be important lessons to learn. “We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen,” he said. “Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.”

Monks, the former chair of the UK government’s science advisory committee on air quality, said that a reduction in air pollution could bring some health benefits, though they were unlikely to offset loss of life from the disease.

“It seems entirely probable that a reduction in air pollution will be beneficial to people in susceptible categories, for example some asthma sufferers,” he said.

“It could reduce the spread of disease. A high level of air pollution exacerbates viral uptake because it inflames and lowers immunity.” Agriculture could also get a boost because pollution stunts plant growth, he added…

Road traffic accounts for about 80% of nitrogen oxide emissions in the UK, according to Monk. For the average diesel car, each kilometre not driven avoids 52 milligrammes of the pollutant entering the air.

“What I think will come out of this is a realisation – because we are forced to – that there is considerable potential to change working practices and lifestyles. This challenges us in the future to think, do we really need to drive our car there or burn fuel for that,” said Monk.

Recall item #1 above, Americans could stay home for two months and still work the same number of hours per year as the averge German–Germany being a very rich country. Of course, the Trump administration is using the crisis as an excuse to roll back environmental protections.

If there’s any future human civilization, they’ll be able to detect this pandemic in the ice cores. Speaking of which, an interesting article came out on the BBC showing that we can detect past historical events using ice cores:

Lead and silver are often mined together and in this period, mines in the Peak District and in Cumbria were among the most productive in Europe. Lead had many uses in this time, from water pipes to church roofs to stained glass windows. But production of the metal was clearly linked to political events according to the authors of this latest research.

The researchers were able to match the physical records from the ice with the written tax records of lead and silver production in England.

“In the 1169-70 period, there was a major disagreement between Henry II and Thomas Beckett and that clash manifested itself by the church refusing to work with Henry – and you actually see a fall in that production that year,” said Prof Christopher Loveluck, from Nottingham University.

Excommunicated by the Pope in the wake of the murder, Henry’s attempt at reconciliation is detailed in the ice core. “To get himself out of jail with the Pope, Henry promised to endow and build a lot of major monastic institutions very, very quickly,” said Prof Loveluck. “And of course, massive amounts of lead were used for roofing of these major monastic complexes. Lead production rapidly expanded as Henry tried to atone for his misdemeanours against the Church.”

The researchers say their data is also clear enough to show the clear connections between lead production rising and falling during times of war and between the reigns of different kings in this period between 1170 and 1220.

Thomas Becket: Alpine ice sheds light on medieval murder (BBC)

5. What Socialism is Not

I’ve seen a lot of memes arguing that the checks from the government are in some way socialism.

The government sending people money is not socialism.

It plays into this idea in America that any time the government spends money–or does anything, really–it’s somehow socialism.

That definition actually plays into the hands of the critics. It’s like the meme that we need to raise enough taxes to pay for stuff. It does more harm than good.

6. Collapse-prone

There was the the 2000 Dot-com crash, the 2008-2009 housing bubble, and now Coronavirus. By my estimation, in the twenty-first century we’ve had a major stock-market crash about every ten years so far.

Tell me again how we should put all our faith in the Market?

7. Historical echoes

When the last great economic crisis of this magnitude hit, we also had a Republican president who believed–along with everyone in his party–that the private sector was best, and that government “interference” in the economy was unwarranted, or should at least be kept to an absolute minimum. That didn’t work out well. From a Slate article review on a biography of President Herbert Hoover:

When the crash came, Hoover offered soothing rhetoric—”The fundamental business of the country … is on a sound and prosperous basis”—that in retrospect seems tone-deaf but at the time amounted to a reasonable attempt to rally the nation. Following his voluntarist philosophy, he got labor and business to agree to a program to prop up wages. He even promoted public works on a small scale.

Yet his obsession with restraint exposed his conservatism. “Prosperity,” he intoned, “cannot be restored by raids upon the public Treasury.” He spurned a huge relief effort for the growing ranks of the destitute, deeming reports of want exaggerated. “Nobody actually starved,” Hoover said. The hospitals and morgues told a sadder tale. Not until a year after the crash did he set up an employment commission, which, Leuchtenburg seethes, “churned out press releases with pap topics such as urging people to ‘spruce up’ their homes.” A mediocre speaker who shunned the bully pulpit, Hoover did little even to “talk up” the economy or public morale.

Hoover’s boldest stroke, the creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corp. in 1932, was too little too late. Authorized to lend money to banks, insurance companies, and other firms, the RFC struck some observers at first as a happy volte-face for Hoover, with government now given a key role in the intended recovery. (Others wondered why bankers, but not the jobless, were now on the dole.) But Leuchtenburg maintains that Hoover enacted the RFC only when the civic-mindedness that he expected from financial and industrial leaders didn’t materialize. “Only unwittingly—by revealing the inadequacy of his voluntaristic approach—was Hoover the progenitor of FDR’s enlargement of federal authority.”

The Riddle of Herbert Hoover (Slate)

I was reminded of that once again by this comment:

Here’s the thing, tho (if I may draw a historical parallel…), this is what got Hoover kicked out of office in 32. He did the same thing Trump and (apparently) Trudeau is doing, which was asking nicely for big business NOT to fire people and to provide help when they could instead of hoarding what liquid capital that they could. With the DC police descending on the “bonus army” months before the election (Great War vets who had come to ask for their bonus they were to get on retirement early), Hoover’s goose was cooked by FDR… Unfortunately, Biden is no FDR…

He certainly is not. As I sarcastically said last week, if only the opposition party had a politician with radical populist ideas who modeled his career and governing philosophy on FDR, that would be ideal at a time like this. As for what made Herbert Hoover, a Stanford-educated engineer and philanthropist who had managed the American relief effort that provided food to starving Western Europeans after World War One so ineffective while in office:

A pro-business ideology that believed that the problem should be solved by the private sector (both business and civil society), not government. He did not want to regulate markets or corporations, pure and simple. The pro-business wing of the GOP had won out by then. While Trump is surely not a great philanthropist, he is a firm believer in the supremacy of the private sector and in government not regulating businesses at all.

While Communism seems to have died, market fundamentalism seems to keep resurrecting itself, no matter how invalidated by historical events over and over again.

Incidentally, the exact same thing as above happened during the Great Depression: see the 1933 Wisconsin Milk Strike.

8. Rising to the challenge

What could be accomplished with a Rooseveltian president:

GE already has a division of the company that makes medical equipment. But workers at the Lynn facility and other GE Aviation branches say their equipment can be retooled to make ventilators, and thanks to the years of downsizing, they have plenty of space to do it.

Similar battles are taking place at GE facilities across the country, some of which have been hit by the sweeping layoffs the company announced last week (Lynn has been spared job cuts for the time being). The nationwide IUE-CWA identified at least seven different facilities that had both the capacity and capability to make ventilators, which gives the company the option to both put laid-off workers back on the job and manufacture a product in extremely high demand by the government and hospital systems across the country.

“We’re going to get out front of this… to say you’re not going to use this crisis to line your pockets again,” Adam Kaszynski, the president of the IUE-CWA Local 201 in Lynn told Rolling Stone. “Workers know what to do. We have empty buildings, we have communities you can put jobs and manufacturing back into, making a product that is heavily needed by society right now.”

Kaszynski’s fear is that GE will use the crisis to shift production to non-union plants, rather than meet workers demands for a safe workplace and productive work to serve a national good. “This is disaster capitalism,” Kaszynski said. “They’re going to have to explain to everyone their vision of the world if they shift jobs out of this community.”

And for the workers that remain, the ongoing epidemic is a constant fear.

General Electric Workers Want to Build Medical Equipment to Fight Coronavirus. Management Is Standing in the Way (Rolling Stone)

Yup, we’re laying off workers that could be producing desperately needed medical equipment. If that’s not an indictment of neoliberal capitalism, then what is?

Imagine if after Peal Harbor, Roosevelt had politely asked the car manufacturers and oil plants and rubber plants and other industrial barons whether they might want to voluntarily pitch in and help the war effort, you know, if it didn’t affect their bottom line too much. That’s not what happened. If it did, we’d probably be speaking Japanese or German today, as the saying goes.

Yet after 40+ years of Neoliberal conditioning that has convinced us that the most terrifying words in English are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” (an actual quote from Ronald Reagan), Americans can’t even conceive of another way of doing things. It is the private sector that runs the government, not the other way around. And all the private sector cares about is profit. So much for the idea that we are advancing as a society. In many ways, we’ve regressed.

9. Bottom-up collapse

The polemical writer Umair Haique has been writing up a storm recently. Unfortunately, only a limited number of articles can be read on Medium, but this one about bottom-up collapse is interesting.

Haique argues that what’s causing collapse is the destruction of the lowest strata of societies and ecosystems by superpredation from above. Once the scaffolding goes, those that think they are above it all soon find themselves temporarily suspended in midair, like Wile E. Coyote.

Everywhere we look today, we see bottom-up collapse — savage, violent, runaway predation, which causes the bottom to be depleted, which causes the middle to implode, which takes the top away with it, too.

When we deplete the bottoms of systems, which are also their foundations, whether in natural systems, or human, socially-constructed ones, like economies — we unleash second and third order effects, which we don’t often anticipate. (Sure, people like you and me might point them out — but who’s listening to us?) Those effects are things like what happened in America and Britain — growing poverty didn’t lead to people making sensible choices, it led to people being blinded by rage. In just the same way, the collapse of insects and glaciers doesn’t just exist in a vacuum — the second and third order effects mean runaway extinctions, nonlinearities, accelerations, discontinuities…

The Age of Collapse (Medium)

On a related note, this comment from Reddit makes much the same point. We are trying to save the roof, while letting the foundations crumble.

This pandemic has laid bare the absolute truth that our society, economy, and civilization as a whole functions from the bottom up, not the other way around. We have been sold this top down, trickle economic bullshit for centuries. But what’s keeping us from completely falling off that cliff we are looking at right now? All of those “burger flipping” and “unskilled” folks who have no other choice but to keep working. But they don’t deserve to make enough to support themselves? THEY are disposable?

Business will recover as long as people have money to spend. It doesn’t matter how much money we pump into failing businesses if there is no market for their product. It is known that putting money into the hands of people who need to use it greatly increases the velocity of every dollar. But we still sit here talking about writing blank checks to corporations that haven’t learned a thing from the last 2 recessions. Corporations that will just turn around and reward their executives, while raising prices and laying off workers. They will continue buying back stock with cash reserves, and leveraging artificially high stock prices to acquire more debt in order to continue the cycle. Rinse and repeat.

It’s true, societies function from the bottom up, not the top down. One of the factors in the Secular Cycles model takes into account predatory elites. When elites are able to prey without constraint; when they are able to channel so many of society’s resources to themselves that average people can’t even reproduce themselves, that is a factor in societal collapse. You enter the phase of declining living standards and stagflation.

Yet despite this, elites still feel themselves invulnerable to pressure from below. They’ve got money coming in directly from the government and people with guns guarding them, after all. But how long can society withstand the forces that are causing it to crack? Ian Welsh points out:

The vast spread of guillotine memes over the past 4 years should alarm our elites, but they still mostly seem to feel invulnerable and are still working to preserve their position in the system rather than fix the system and the society. You can see this in how Democrats are standing up a clearly senile Biden and denying the peasantry health care, even in the face of pandemic.

Why Western Elites Are So Incompetent and What the Consequences Are (Ian Welsh)

10. Personal

Thanks for all your kind words. I can’t say everything is fine; I would be lying. But it’s the weekend, at least.

A recent study found that people’s happiness and life satisfaction hit rock bottom at the age of 47 (47.2 to be precise). Guess how old I am.

‘Out of nowhere I felt really sad’: readers on how they felt at 47 (Guardian)

I also noticed that around this time is a pretty common age for people to make that decision: List of suicides on the 21st century (Wikipedia)

Maybe that’s why I feel like checking out right now. Add to that the fact that you’re pretty much locked-in to whatever you life is at this point, whether for better or worse. When I look back and reflect on my life, I realize I haven’t enjoyed any of it. Not a single moment. Not at all.

It’s like sitting through a movie that’s absolutely unbearable. Take your pick–The Room, Leonard Part Six, Glitter–if you are suffering watching a movie that you absolutely can’t stand, wouldn’t you walk out? Wouldn’t you leave. Wouldn’t you be, in fact, better off leaving? Why not?

I mean, life’s a lot of pain and sorrow. The endless competition for jobs, the constant need for money, bill collectors hounding you, the pressure to perform at work, worrying about an accident or bankruptcy taking everything, and so on and so on. Add to that the loneliness and complete social isolation in my case.

Where’s the joy? Where’s the happiness? I know haven’t found it. It’s just work ’till you die. There is no turning point. There is no happy ending. Like the awful movie, it doesn’t get better as it goes on; only steadily worse.

What are signs that someone is secretly unhappy? (Reddit)

Anyway, those are where my thoughts are at these days.

I had thought of putting up a Patreon earlier this year, and I may do that once this is all over. But for now, a lot of people are hurting financially more than I am. One of the advantages of wanting to move is that I have been squirreling away money for years for just that purpose. It should be enough to survive, at least until this blows over in six months or whenever.


Seen while taking a walk through the park next to my house. Not sure the context here, but I hope it’s a medicine chant for us all.

3 thoughts on “COVID-19 Thoughts 2

  1. Welcome back! I was a bit worried your last post may have actually been your last.

    The book you mention, Secular Cycles, is quite good. I’d recommend it if you can find a cheap copy (it’s not the sort of book you read twice).

    According to the Turchin’s theory you don’t need to worry until intra-elite competition becomes very high. Fighting amongst elites will intensify until it brings on collapse.

    I take joy in small things — sitting in the sun, going for walks or bike rides, cooking etc.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever commented here before, but thank you for your writing. I’ve both learned a lot from it and been inspired to keep learning and sharing myself.

  3. I’ll confess, my suggestion of a patreon had a selfish motivation: I’m hoping that if you had more time and money to write, then you’d write more. I want your work to get more exposure.

    Our society is so embedded in neoliberalism that even when we feel something is wrong, we don’t have a collective ideological or intellectual framework for understanding why it’s wrong or how to fix it. And so I see lots of folks calling for rent strikes and posting memes about guillotining landlords, which is great and all, but no deeper understanding of how housing was commodified in the first place, or what a society without commodified housing could look like. And I want to tell them all to come read your essays on Polanyi and the great transformation and early states!

    Because it’s all there–you have, over the years, put together a package of ideas that could help inform a new, more human kind of leftist politics than what I’m used to encountering. So, please, keep writing!

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