Friday, February 01, 2008

Economic Self-Stimulus: Ideas for One Last Financial Orgasm

Well, it looks like we're all going to get a check in the mail, as part of the "economic self-stimulus, please masturbate the economy into some state of excitement so we can pretend the fundamentals aren't as frigid as Condoleeza Rice"plan.

And since the government, instead, of say, paying down its ridiculous debt or investing in something we might need, like renewable energy, is sending it to you, in the assumption that as usual, we'll blow it all on porn and beer. But that might not be entirely wise, and I feel honor bound, as your Friendly Neighborhood Apocalyptic Dominatrix to offer some helpful suggestions about what to do with the money.

For those of you who live in other countries, where their governments, when on the verge of financial collapse, don't send you checks and accellerate the proces, while spraying imperialist goo all over the rest of the world, all we can do is pity you. And wish desperately we could move to your country. How do you say "I am not personally responsible for my country's economic or foreign policy in Finnish again?"

Now I would dare say that things are, fiscally speaking, going to hell in a handbasket - I don't claim to be an expert. My friend Roel is, though and the blog he shares with a couple of similarly knowledgeable sorts is an excellent place to go for all the crappy financial news.

Now it may be that this particular economic crisis will pass a la kidney stone, and we'll go on to later climate and peak oil crises, but it is also not impossible that this is the beginning of those crises.We are being handed the cash for one more climactic shopping trip - and here I am with my black boots, riding crop and firm demeanor proposing, that just perhaps, you might want to think about this as the last big burst before a very, very, long dry spell. So here are some suggestions to spend your money.

1. Forestall foreclosure. Pay the mortgage, and then use what strategies you have to keep your house: Or, better yet, if you are already teetering on the cusp of foreclosure, consider getting in touch with these people: They don't seem to charge much - you could come out of this with enough cash to put a downpayment on a rental. If you are secure in your home, perhaps invest in some extra fold-away futons, warm blankets and spare towels so that when your family and friends who aren't so secure lose their homes, you can all live together comfortably:

2. Send it to Haiti - here's why: My own favorite Haitian relief charity is the Mennonite Central Comittee - they've sponsored a number of programs that I know some of the players in, and they are generally a really good charity.Here's information about their Haitian programs: International and Doctors Without Borders are also excellent Charities that work in Haiti

3. Buy livestock. Seriously, food prices are rising rapidly. Your annual organic milk costs could probably be covered if you had a cow or a couple of really teeny, super cute Nigerian Dwarf goats. Same with your eggs for chickens. Here's Edson's essay about what he's thinking of doing with his economic stimulus:

Poultry are excellent starter livestock, and many people can have them even in cities. Heck, I've heard of people keeping them in apartments. If you are dreaming of poultry try here, and buy something in danger of going extinct:

4. Say goodbye to wealth and the growth economy by indulging in its very worst excesses. I shouldn't suggest this, of course, but the reality is that who am I to criticize if your dream is to go into hard times with painted toenails and botox injections, or the knowledge that you actually have been to see spring training. So take your 800 bucks and go drink 100 year old champagne, or buy that original live recording of the Led Zepplin studio sessions. Go for it. Just remember, you can't eat commemorative plates.

5. Get your teeth fixed. Seriously, dentistry is one of the big worries, and millions of Americans can't afford it now. It is a fairly energy intensive process: This might be a good time to get everyone a checkup, or that root canal you've been needing.

6. Endow your local peak oil group. If you don't desperately need your tax refund, and perhaps that's true of some of your fellow peakists, get together and put the money into your local peak group. Money buys power and influence in our society, and also enables you to do common good projects. Consider asking everyone who can to put half their refund into a collective good account, designed, for example, to make micro-emergency loans in the community, or to fund solar panels for the local clinic.

7. Get together with others and buy a farm - remember, "farm" doesn't mean "1000 acres in Iowa" - consider a foreclosed upon rural property, for example, with 5 - 20 acres. There are a few of them out my way, and I'm willing to bet there are some where you are. The reality is that rising food prices are pushing land prices way up - we're starting to see what Aaron calls the "tertiary effects" of our energy crisis here:

Note the reasoning here - high grain prices look likely to persuade farmers to actually *sell* their land, and get out of farming, so that people can "invest" in land. Hmmm - we might need people who know how to farm sitting on dirt even more than expected.

8. Buy a musical instrument. Have you always wanted to learn the violin? Do you play a nice saxophone, but don't have one? Even in hard times, there are reasons to celebrate, and music makes celebrations. If the economy tanks and you are out of work, a. subway busking becomes a more economically viable choice (although pianos are tough for that) and b. you'll have time to practice, or to bug the kids into it. My husband adores the Lark in the Morning catalog for a source for every conceivable instrument.

9. Hookers. Lots of hookers. Or one really expensive one. Now where would a farming Mom like me find a someone willing to raise my beds? I'd never heard it called that, but perhaps I was unimaginative. Either way, I knew that Crunchy Chicken could be counted on to help me with all my pay to play needs, over here: Now it isn't clear to me that Crunchy actually can schedule his arrival at the homes of my heterosexual female and gay male readers, but she's an enterprising sort, so you never know. For my lesbian and male readers, I'm afraid you'll just have to do your own bargaining - Matt Savinar isn't yet offering these services on his site - any day now, though,
I'm sure ;-).

10. Food. 700-1200 bucks will buy a lot of stored grains and beans. And you can be virtually certain that the food you buy today will appreciate in value, probably much faster than your investments. (the link is useful for the graph, not the stupid boosterism). What today buys hundreds of pounds may buy only half of that. If possible, buy direct from farmers, ideally local farmers. If you can't find what you need, try If you don't need food for your own storage, consider donating some of it to your local food pantry. There are already a lot of hungry people out there.

11. Give it to people who will fight the biofuels boom. is one possibility.

12. Be ready in case the lights go out. In a period of increasing economic stress, utility bills can be tough to pay - even more so as the price of electricity rises. The example of South Africa: is not quite what we're facing, but there are reasonable causes to be concerned about having enough electric power to go around, including increasing droughts, which put stress on coal and nuclear generators.

In addition, as times get tighter, sometimes we have to make hard choices - the electric bill or food? Let's be clear - the electric bill should always be the first to go. As I've argued before, it isn't necessarily grid problems that cause the power to go out: .

So it would be wise to figure out ways to make do without electricity. That means an investment in solar powered battery chargers, rechargeable batteries, a woodstove in cold places, solar lanterns, a hand washer... Check out for the best in non-electric supplies.

13. Make your yard feed you. Invest in perennial plants like jerusalem artichokes and groundnuts, buy blueberries or gooseberry bushes, buy a good sized stock of seeds (great prices at among other places) and regular or sweet potatoes, a couple of sacks of greensand, rock phosphate and anything else you might need. Put in drip irrigation, dig a pond, or add dryland plants if you anticipate drought. Fence if necessary. Vary your seed order, try something new. Buy in larger quantities - you can always donate extras to a local community garden.

14. Dig a hole and bury the money in the ground. Seriously, that's starting to look safer than many banks.

15. Clean up good. Those of us who are in those "married until we die or kill each other" relationships don't always seem to understand the plight of the single person. But who wants to go into an unending economic depression alone, with no one to fight with about the money you don't have? So if you are looking for love, now is the time to join that singles website, get a really good picture of yourself taken, or maybe get a decent haircut. Take a day off work without pay, and really work on that personal ad - remember, "Angry, anxious SWF terrified to go into apocalypse alone" is probably not the best start. Put a good face on things. And if you are married, try and stay that way for the following reasons:

16. Superinsulate. This is likely to be a pricey project, but you could get a start. Check out the information here: about how to get started. Whether your home is hot or cold, this will save you money in the longer term.

17. Invest in a really good bike. A lot of the bikes that are lying around aren't meant to be ridden long distances, for years at a time with minimal maintenence. I'm no expert on this issue, and won't try to advise you - instead, find a good bike shop and talk to people there. I personally covet one of these: and they have fascinating collection of family bikes at the same site.

18. Buy yarn. It has many uses - if you have enough, you can insulate an entire room with it. Not to mention that we're all going to need to make socks: Here's more about why knitting is an essential skill in hard times: But you don't really need all these justifications, because the simple truth is that if you buy yarn, then you have yarn. What's not to like?

19. Pay down your debt. If you have old loans, consumer debt, etc... pay it down now. The US bankruptcy laws are moving rapidly towards eternal debt slavery, and that's not a role any of us want to play. As cool and shiny as the gizmos may look, pay down your debt if you can.

20. Make sure you have water. You can't grow food, wash, or live without it. Make sure you have a reliable source of water in the future. That could mean a well with a manual pump, or a cistern, a rainbarrel set up, a spring, solar direct pumping, or a public resource - perhaps a pump in a park or at the local school that can supply the community when the power is out.

21. Do your Christmas/Chanukah/birthday shopping now. Does this one sound weird, coming from anti-consumerist me? For all that a lot of us may deplore the crazy consumerism of the holidays, the "no gifts" idea is an easy one to take when you have everything you need, and live in a rich society. Gift exchange is tied into every culture, not just including, but especially poor ones. The ability to be generous to one another is part and parcel of being human. So maybe now is a good time to think ahead about what it would be like to be poor, if you haven't been, and how simple gifts might come in handy. Think useful things - a new shirt, a pair of boots, a pocket knife, a book, a special toy, a bottle of wine. Or perhaps think in terms of your ability to make something - beautiful soaps, or special traditional baked goods, a wooden toy or the above mentioned socks. Remember, gifts are going to look different in a poorer society. Don't forget to add a few things to donate - more kids will be missing Christmas next year, I suspect, and perhaps a few special trade goods that will be especially welcome among people who have done you kindnesses

22. Donate it to the George W. Bush Presidential Library. I know, I know, I hate him too, but think about what a gesture of charity this will be - have we ever had a president who needed a library more. Think what good the atlases and the beginning readers will do for him. But more importantly, think about what's going to be in those presidential papers, that sooner or later will be released (more realistically, donate your money to the people suing to get his executive order overturned). War crimes trials, anyone? You could also give it to someone whose name you think would look better on a library - and how hard is that?

23. Build your own library. Heck, you can even call it a "presidential" library, and name it after one of the more obscure 19th century presidents. I mean who really knows whether James Knox Polk's library is in your house or not? I'd believe it. Meanwhile, if you don't live in easy walking distance of a really high quality library, build your own. A lot of us focus on gardening and sustainability books, and I certainly value that stuff - my own recommendations are here: and, but don't stop there. Think about how valuable history books will be, as we remake our society. What about a good supply of children's books, and educational materials in case you need to homeschool your kids or grandkids during periods of disruption. And everyone may want to settle down some evening and just not think about what's happening in their world, to escape with either a trashy novel or a great one, and be swept away into another place and time. The reality is that we sell books awfully cheaply - and they may not always be so cheap.

24. A stock of things you don't really want to have to try making. Whenever we talk about stockpiling, someone notes that it is possible to make just about anything at home. Needles? Can be carved out of bone. Necessary drugs? All you need is a small home chemistry lab? Shoes? First, chase down and kill a deer... Diva cup? Just go down to the ocean and snorkel around until you get a sponge...

All of which is entirely true. And the odds are not that these things are going away anytime soon (which someone else always mentions in these discussions) so much as there might be either supply constraints or other things you need to spend your money on. It is nice to know these things can be produced at home, and if it got dire enough, some of us probably would. But, sometimes you just don't wanna make it yourself. There are some conveniences that are kind of nice- and as long as someone is sending us a check...

So if you don't want to face a world without enough duct tape, menstrual supplies, wood screws or sneakers, throw a few spares in a box somewhere. When entering this category, think particularly about quality of life issues (here, again, I mention shoes), the components to fix things that you'd like to keep around that might break (my neighbor is facing our current ice storm without her woodstove for lack of a replacement catalytic converter) and things you use a lot.

25. The mind altering substances of your choice. I, of course, would be irresponsible if I advocated drunkeness, and doing something illegal if I advocated drug use. So, of course, I would never, ever do such a thing. But there's something about my nation, as it teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, giving cash to consumers to go shopping that makes me feel as though the proper response, between laughter and weeping, is probably a lost weekend, a moment of drunken, drugged out debauchery that won't actually meet any needs, improve our lives, or do anything good at all - but somehow seems to answer the state we've entered. Being a breastfeeding Mom of four, the chance of me doing so are the proverbial snowball's, but it does have its appeal. At the very least, perhaps you'd like to stock up on your preferred mind-altering substance, to help get you through the next moment of national idiocy. In fact, some seeds, or a still might not be a bad idea. Strengthens the informal economy, y'know.



Wylie said...

Speaking of favorite charities in Haiti, here's mine:

They build composting toilets for schools and other community areas - the founder is a college pal of mine and as far as I know, the originator of "liberation ecology" - check 'em out....


Crunchy Chicken said...

Very comprehensive, Sharon. I'm glad I can be counted on as a purveyor of "fine goods".

Anonymous said... is a scam according to Dave Ramsey.

e4 said...

You forgot one:

26. Pie.

Or maybe some fruit trees and pie tins.

homebrewlibrarian said...

I've moved back to a property with two lower units and one upper unit owned by a friend. I've been helping out with replacing the original 1950s sash windows with more efficient casement ones but there will be some minor construction projects and tree removal I could use the money for.

Interestingly enough, the state of Alaska is considering an "energy" refund of perhaps up to $1000 as well. The idea is to give us this money to help cover our heating energy bills for the winter. We also, at least for now, receive an annual dividend from the Alaska Permanent Fund (interest revenue off payments made to the Fund by oil companies operating in the state) which varies from $900 to over $1500 a year.

I'll call a town meeting of our little house community about what to do with all this money. Since only 2 1/2 of us are concerned about the future (the 1/2 is my friend's adult daughter - she's on the fence about all this) out of six of us and two are early 20s young men with limited incomes, it might be a hard sell to get us to pool it towards the property and getting prepared. But it's worth a try. Besides, the adult daughter is married to one of the early 20s young men and has a way of getting both fellows to do what she wants. Maybe not all the time, but I'd be happy with just this time.

I'm all over #13 and 16, but #10 is right up there. And I really want chickens. A lot.


Anonymous said...

Good article, with lots of good ideas. Of course, next time I find myself sinfully lingering in the hot shower, I may imagine Sharon chasing me out with a riding crop...

Can anyone make sense of the linked Economist story on food prices? What is this food-price index supposed to be? According to the text, food prices fell by three-quarters (i.e., 75%) in real terms between 1975 and 2005, but the drop in the food-index graph is clearly less than 50%. Then, it says that food prices rose 75% from 2005 to the present. That should still leave food less than half as costly as it was in 1975 (1.75 x 25% of 1975 costs). But the graph shows a line shooting up well beyond the previous maximum food index [whatever that may be]. Perhaps the food index is a measure of what people actually spend, without correction for changes in diet?
For that matter, the graph makes it appear that the food index, whatever that is, was virtually constant from 1850 on and then increased *tenfold* between 1960 and 1975 (almost all after 1970; compared to which the post-1975 changes are insignificant). I can't believe that this reflects basic commodity prices, or people would have starved en masse, but I can't believe either that people spent ten times more on luxury and processed food in 1975 than they did a decade previously. These figures just do not make any sense.


Dan said...

Regarding the bicycle, I would suggest getting a mountain bike with a butted steel frame, and not an aluminum one. Butted steel is stronger and will last longer than aluminum with proper care. Surly is an excellant brand for inexpensive steel bikes. Also, spend an few hundred extra and get an Xtracycle Freeradical attachment for said mountain bike. A mountain bike with an Xtracycle attachment can replace many car trips. Your locally owned bike shop can help you with attaching the Xtracycle to your bike.

Anonymous said...

Great post! We haven't discussed the 'stimulus' $$ in great detail here, but have been thinking it would come in handy for getting that tank for rain catchment we want, maybe some extra food (long-term storage stuff), etc. Or hold on to some of it for getting fruit trees and that sort of thing... We've also considered just putting it in the bank with the money we're saving for buying a small farm.

I do like the idea of sending some of it to Haiti though. The local pantries need help too, but them we can help out this summer (often when they're hardest hit), by bringing over some veggies from our garden (the local food bank works with a number of the CSAs in our area).

And tomorrow we're going to a first-time local fair/winter farmers market, where they're going to demo a bicycle-powered thresher and grain mill! Some of the local bakeries are working with a few farmers and some individual members of the community to grow wheat, spelt, and rye locally, to cut down on shipping costs and be more sustainable (organic, even). They're hoping to get more farmers to consider growing grains for local consumption instead of corn for ethanol. It's pretty exciting and who knows, we might get to grow wheat this year, which I was kind of hoping to do.

Heather G

LisaZ said...

Awww, can't we just go buy our new HD-TVs with the money???

Top of my list are rain barrel, Harsch crock for fermenting veggies for winter storage, blueberry bushes, possibly a propane cook stove, some books for homeschooling and homesteading, a solar charger... much are we getting? Maybe I have to cut back the list.


Andy in San Diego said...

I was thinking of sticking the money under my mattress or spending it on foreign goods or foreign stocks just to spite these fools in Washington, but I guess I'd be hurting myself more than them. Canning, beer making, soap making, and gardening supplies might be a better investment. But assuming I can find any of those things Made in America, darn it, I'll be doing just what they wanted. Seems like a can't win situation.

I can vouch for the FreeRadical from XtraCycle. Best $400 I ever spent. Ever. Pure fun. Pure utility. Wait, I guess it's an alloy of fun and utility.

Brian M. said...

I was joking to my wife a day or two ago what people should do with their stimulus packages

26) Buy a membership in a Co-op!

Or a CSA share, or a cow share.
Buying food is one good idea, investing in your local food systems is another good idea. If there are other local businesses that you want to be able to stay in business as things get bad, consider investing in, or supporting them.

Dewey, the Economist is jumping back and forth between "real" and "nominal" figures. See
for the difference between real and nominal values. The nominal value is the money value of an item, the real value is more complexly calculated based on some kind of price-index. More or less, the real value is the nominal value divided by the price-index.

So when the Economist claims that the price index on food was pretty stable decade to decade from 1850-1950, what this means is that the actual nominal price is very accurately reflecting the real value of the food-commodities. Then in the 70's, nominal food prices went up a little (with inflation), but the price index shot up, so the real value plummeted (according to the Economist) (because the QUANTITY of "food" produced skyrocketed).
This means that according to them the "real" price of food has gone down over half since 1975, as you calculate. But since the price index has also shot up, this means that it is possible (and actual) that the Nominal prices are the highest they have ever been on many crops (and very close even on the others). We pay more money that ever before for food, even though food is actually worth less than ever before in the Economists estimation.

Does that make sense? Or rather does that explain the Economist's opinion of the situation?

-Brian M.

Anonymous said...

Brian, thanks for trying, but it still doesn't make much sense. Since our money is worth less than it used to, nominal prices will rise even if "real" (constant dollar value) prices are dropping; fine. You say that because of inflation in the 1970s, the price index shot up, so nominal prices slightly increased even though the real price dropped. But the Economist "food index" graph showed a giant exponential increase between about 1965 and 1975, in which the "food index" increased a good 1000%. The only thing in your explanation that shoots up suddenly is the price index -- but if the graph is some kind of graph of inflation rates, well, all I can say is it wasn't labeled as such and wouldn't have been very useful to the article if it had been. Foo. Their fault, not yours.


Brian M. said...

I didn't mean that the 1965-75 increase in price index was because of inflation. I meant that even though there was inflation, the real value of food was dropping like a stone from 1965-1975 according to the Economist. The real price in a basket-of-goods style indexing measure is a fair bit more complicated than just an inflation measure (and inflation was nothing like 1000% between 1965 and 75).

So what the hell is going on? I thought about it all the way walking home from work... here goes.

One of the problems with Economics is that it tries to give simple answers to questions that don't deserve simple answers. You ask a question like "What is the true value of food?" and an honest answer goes something like this. "Value means all kinds of different things, but food is a basic requirement for human survival. It dictates how many people can survive at a give time and thus how large and complex a society can be, and thus is linked to many other forms of wealth. But it is more than just a means to survival. Food provides pleasure, emotional value, health benefits and many other things. It is an integral part of culture, and art, and most religions. And we can go on." That question deserves an ESSAY not a number. But economics wants badly to be a social SCIENCE instead of a social HUMANITY, and it is easy to see why. The sciences get a lot more prestige and funding than the humanities. So economics has to try to use the methodologies of social science; statistics, graphs, correlations, estimates, data sets, not essays. But the smart economists all know that some economics questions deserve an essay not a number. So how can you approximate the effect of an essay, within a statistical methodology? You make a lot of fine distinctions between different kinds of measurables, and give them all different numbers, so that by assembling different kinds of variables and looking at their values over time, and such you can assemble an essay-like overall picture. So the magazine named the Economist estimates that the food price index skyrocketed between 65 and 75, and that the real value of food is less today than it was in 75 (and I think) vastly less than it was in 1960. What does that mean? Well near as I can tell something like the following essay

"Look from 1850-1950 food was a huge part of America's economy, and of the American labor force. When people earned more money, they spent more on food. So how much you spent on food was a good indicator of your level of real wealth. Food was an American priority. If you owned food you owned something of real value. But that has changed. Food collectively is now a very small part of our overall economy, few people are engaged in making food. People have gotten much richer with out spending proportionally more on food. Food is no longer a priority in American spending. Food is simply so plentiful in America that is is not really of much value anymore. And the big change happened between 1965 and 1975." The Economist really thinks that the value of food is much less than it was decades ago.

There is a classic paradox in Economics that no one really needs diamonds and yet they are extremely valuable, whereas everyone needs water and in most places (until recently) it has been nearly valueless. Different theories have different answers to this paradox. But I think what the Economist is saying is that food became much more water-like between 1965 and 1975. OK way too long, but I hope that helps.

-Brian M.

Idaho Locavore said...

Great post, Sharon! I chuckled my way through it, but of course you've got some good points. Why not throw bad money after good?

Instead of yarn, however, my insulation of choice will probably remain fabric. *grin*

LisaZ said...

Another plant everyone should buy and put in your yard are elder bushes (at least two for pollination). The latin are Sambucus canadensis here in USA and S. nigra in Europe (not sure of others but don't plant or use S. racemosa, a poisonous type). Elder is my favorite herbal remedy, and its berries are super nutritious.

I posted its uses and benefits on my blog today.


Ani said...

Good list Sharon-

I had been pondering what to do with the $$ if they actually send me any- last time around I lost out as my income was too low with a child at home to pay Fed. taxes that year- so no rebate. This year it's different so I would expect to see some dough out of the deal. And so I will actually spend it, treating it as an unexpected windfall- but will try to spend it wisely-and locally, or at least in the US.

I've been considering a few dairy goats- thinking of going back into that again. Also considering starting up my bee hives again so I need foundation and bees, plus repairs to my existing equipment and misc. extra parts. I want to increase my chicken numbers so will use some of it for chicks this spring- plus some electric fence. That would probably do it for the fed. rebate.
If I didn't do the above- or if I had more to work with, I'd buy another instrument that I've been wanting to learn to play.

I have heard it lamented that so many people will likely just go to Wal Mart and spend it on stuff from China-or electronics at Best Buy also from China or something- so that this so-called stimulus will just help China- so I hope that is not the case. We could actually, if we use it thoughtfully, do some economic good with it as well as truly purchase things that we will find useful in the long run.

Greenpa said...

ok, now I've got this clear image of Sharon gathering the eggs- in 6-inch stiletto heels, and some very interesting kosher leather... with a whip...

jeepers. :-)

Crunchy Chicken said...

Wow, Greenpa, you must be reading a different post than I.

Although with her breastfeeding abilities, Sharon may be able to bring in a whole new income...

Greenpa said...

Crunch- so "Buy yarn. It has many uses" just went whizzing right past you?

Crunchy Chicken said...

Apparently. I really don't see a connection.

But I guess those rumors about you are true, you really do have a sordid past. That story in Playgirl about what really happens inside your "sexy outhouse" probably covers the S&M, eh?

Amelia said...

Terrific post, Sharon!

Half of ours is going to the land purchase fund for our local community gardening group, and I'm thinking now that the other half should probably go for our son's dental work: we've got good insurance now and they'll cover the cost of the first $1300 for his orthodontics, and his wisdom teeth need to come out . . . .

Amelia said...

Actually, no, you know what? Part of that cash is going to buy DS a new flute. DH plays violin and I've always wanted to learn bodhran: we'll have an in-house band if nothing else.

jewishfarmer said...

Wylie, thank you for that suggestion! And Crunchy, I always trust that whatever you have will be fine!

Greenpa, I will dress in leather. I will whip my hens into shape. But I will not wear stiletto heels anywhere, ever. Besides, I'm 6' - I don't need them to scare the hell out of people ;-).


Sarah said...

These are fantastic.. especially #15. Never thought about it but what would a single person do post-peak?? Write novels? Sing to themselves? Sing to their gardens? Hmm. I think I do all of this already. Still, your note about huddling together for body warmth are enough to convince me. ;)


Anonymous said...

That does make more sense. However, this article at Energy Bulletin seems to be indicating that in the early 70s adjusted commodity prices were absolutely insane. I don't know why people DIDN'T starve if this is correct.


Brian M. said...


People did starve. People are always starving. The question is how many, where and why? Maybe Sharon knows the history here better, but if I remember right in the early 70s not nearly as many of the world's poor were living off of food bought and sold in the international markets. Globalization was only beginning, and third-world urbanization hadn't progressed too far. People lived off of vegeculture and rice and locally produced food. If wheat and soy were quite expensive (temporarily while OPEC was rattling things) well then eat something else other than wheat and soy!

But since then, the IMF and World Bank have worked hard to destroy those local 3rd world markets, and make sure that as many folk as possible are surviving off of wheat, corn, and soy, while exporting luxury crops to the first world.

Cobb is right, the market adapts. Price is one thing, and resources are another. A 1973 world pricced out of buying soy on the commodity markets is one thing, a 2008 world priced out of buying soy on the commodity markets is another. I suspect demand destruction will hurt more this time. When the poor can no longer afford to buy food, will they be able to grow it or get it some other way than buying it? That is the question. When we can no longer afford to buy food at commodity-market prices, will we be able to get it some other way?

Mauricio Babilonia said...

There lots photos of what Xtracycle-equipped bikes can haul over on Flickr. More than just groceries.

Desert Rat said...

I will be expanding my herb garden in rural NM this spring; will probably spend the check if there is one upgrading my greenhouse. I have followed your blog for a while and don't agree with all your ideas ( I am a libertarian, not any sort of collectivist) but I admire serious people ( esp. 6-foot women) who practice what they preach. I'm kissing your boots, m'lady.

nollij said...

I too ride an xtracycle, and I can vouch for their ability to carry almost anything. They are true "car replacement" vehicles and will be highly coveted items for families when driving is no longer an option. I guess that means I need to mount shotgun racks somewhere to fend off the rabid zombie bike thieves that will come after the apocalypse... :)

Stop Foreclosures said...

I agree, pay down you debts, live on less than you make - common sense, but the government does not seem to want to promote such a message.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget coffee. Only grows in certain places, so you may want to stockpile beans, too. We could try a 17th-century approach (to a bunch of trade goods, actually) and import it from the tropical latitudes by sail power...

Anonymous said...

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