A way to eliminate unemployment and provide a productive role for seniors

The is a guest post by John Michael Greer, excerpted from a longer post he wrote. I have also included a short excerpt from Sharon Astyk's response to JMG's post, and a few Campfire questions.

John Michael Greer's comments:

What would you say, dear reader, if I told you that I’ve come up with a way to eliminate unemployment in the United States – yes, even in the face of the current economic mess? What if I explained that it would also improve the effective standard of living of many American families and decrease their income tax burdens? And that it would also increase our economic resilience and sustainability, and simultaneously cause a significant decrease in the amount of automobile traffic on America’s streets and highways? Would you be all for it?

No, dear reader, you wouldn’t. Permit me to explain why.

Right now, many two-income families with children in the United States are caught in a very curious economic bind. I haven’t been able to find statistics, but I personally know quite a few families for whom the cost of paid child care and one partner’s costs for commuting, business clothes, and all the other expenses of employment, approaches or even exceeds the take-home pay of one partner. Factor in the benefits of shifting to a lower tax bracket, and for a great many of these families, becoming a single-income family with one partner staying out of the paid work force would actually result in an increase in disposable income each month.

This is even before factoring in the financial elephant in the living room of the old one-income family: the economic benefits of the household economy. It’s only in the last half dozen decades that the home has become nothing more than a center of consumption; before then, it was a place where real wealth was produced. It costs a great deal less to buy the raw materials for meals than to pick up something from the supermarket deli on the way home from work, as so many people do these days, or to fill the pantry and the fridge with prepackaged processed food; it costs a great deal less to buy yarn than to purchase socks and afghans of anything like the quality a good knitter can make; it costs a great deal less to grow a good fraction of a family’s vegetables in a backyard garden than to buy them fresh at the grocery, if you can get them at all.

The difference in each case – and examples like this could be multiplied manyfold – is made by the household economy. Economists like to dismiss the household economy as inefficient, but it’s worth remembering that “efficiency” in current economic jargon is defined as labor efficiency – that is an economic process is considered more efficient if it uses less human labor, no matter how wildly inefficent it is in any other sense. Economists also like to dismiss the household economy because it lacks economies of scale, and here they’re on firmer ground. Still, there’s another factor that more than counterbalances this; much of the value of an employee’s labor – as much, as Marxists like to remind us, as the employer can get away with taking – goes to support his employer, while all of the value produced by labor in the household market remains with the family and is used directly, without being mediated through the money economy.

This is why, until quite recently, at least half the adult members of most families, aside from the urban poor, worked in the household economy instead of the money economy. It’s also why a grandparent or two or an unmarried aunt so often found a place in the family setting. This had very little to do with charity; an extra pair of hands that could be employed in the household economy was a significant economic asset to most families. One of the advantages of this, of course, is that elderly people continued to have a valued and productive role in their families and communities, instead of being paid to go away and do nothing until they die, as so many of them are today.

None of these things are any less possible today than they were in the 1920s, or for that matter the 1820s. As a former househusband, I can say this on the basis of personal experience; my wife and I found that we had a better standard of living on her bookkeeper’s salary alone, with a thriving full time household economy, than we had earlier on two salaries with only the scraps of a household economy the two of us could manage after work and commuting. I came in for a certain amount of derision for making that choice, of course, though it’s only fair to say that I got off very lightly in comparison to the abuse leveled, mostly by women, at those women I knew who made a similar decision.

Now of course that touches on one of the most volatile issues touching on the household economy, the politics of gender. For complex cultural reasons, a great many feminists in the 1960s and 1970s came to believe that working for one’s family in the household economy was a form of slavery, while working for an employer in the money economy – often under conditions that were even more exploitative – was a form of liberation. Now it’s certainly true that assigning people to participation in the household economy by gender was unfair, but it’s equally true that assigning them to participation in the money economy on the same basis was no better; for every woman whose talents were wasted in a housewife’s role, there was arguably a man whose life would have been much happier and more productive had he had the option of working full time in the household economy.

Feminism might usefully have challenged the relative social status assigned to the household and money economies, and pressed for a revaluation of work and gender that could have thrown open a much broader field of possibilities to people of both genders; and in fact some thoughtful steps were taken in this direction by a few perceptive thinkers in the movement. In general, though, that turned out to be the road not taken. Instead, the great majority of women simply accepted the social value given to participation in the money economy, demanded access to it for themselves, and got it. In the process, for most Americans, the household economy collapsed, or survived only as a dowdy sort of hobby practiced by the insufficiently fashionable.

Let’s grant at the outset, therefore, that there’s no particular reason why people of one gender ought to be more active in the household economy than people of the other; let’s assume that a great many men will make the choice I did, and work full time in the household economy while the women in their lives work full time for a paycheck. On that basis, is there a point to two-income families shifting gears and becoming families that combine one cash income with a productive household economy? Of course there is, and now more than ever.

To begin with, as already mentioned, a significant number of families with children would gain an immediate boost in their disposable income each month by taking the kids home from daycare, giving up the second commute (and in some cases, the second car as well), dropping the other expenses that come with paid employment, and taking a wild downhill ride through the income tax brackets. A great many more would find that when these benefits are combined with the real wealth produced by the household economy, they came out well ahead. Even those who simply broke even would be likely to find that differences in quality, though hard to measure in strictly economic terms, would make the change more than worthwhile.

Now take a moment to think of the effects on community and society. Take a significant amount of the workforce out of paid employment, and two things happen: first, unemployment rates go down, and second, competition among employers for the remaining workers tends to drive wages up. Some sectors of the economy would be negatively affected, to be sure; sales of convenience foods would decrease, and so would employment in the day care industry, among others; still, these industries would be affected by the contraction in workforce numbers along with all the others, and those employees who needed to find a job elsewhere would be entering a job market where their chances would be much better than they are at present. There would need to be some adjustments, especially to retirement arrangements, but those are going to have to happen fairly soon anyway.

Finally, factor in the impact of such a change on the resilience and sustainability of society. A nation in which a very large fraction of the workforce is insulated from the money economy, and produces a diverse array of goods and services at home for local consumption using relatively simple tools, is a nation that’s much better prepared to face the economic turmoil of the end of the age of cheap oil than a nation where nearly everyone depends for their income, as well as for the goods and services they use every day, on the global economy. A nation in which, let’s say, 30% fewer people have to drive to work than they do today is much better prepared to face the price spikes and shortages that will almost inevitably affect gasoline and other petroleum products in the years to come. A nation in which doing things for yourself again has a recognized social value is much better prepared for a future in which we will have to do much more for ourselves than most people can imagine just now.

So when can we expect the return of the single-income family to become an element of constructive plans for the post-peak future? When will Transition Town programs, let’s say, match up the experienced elderly with novice househusbands and housewives who want to learn how to cook, sew, can, garden, and knit? When will high-profile liberal couples start throwing parties to announce that one member of the pair is quitting paid employment, so that the poor have an easier job market and a better chance at upward mobility? When will people aggressively lobby their congressflacks to get a sizable income tax deduction and special Social Security arrangements for families with one income?

Let’s just say I’m not going to hold my breath. In fact, dear reader, I’m quite confident that even if you belong to that large group of married couples with children who could increase your disposable income by giving up that second job, you won’t do it; in fact, you won’t even run the numbers to see whether it would work for you – and the reason you won’t is that you’re so mesmerized by that monthly check of $2000 a month take-home, or whatever it happens to be, that you can’t imagine giving it up even if you have to spend $2200 a month to get it. That is to say, dear reader, that if you don’t think in terms of whole systems, the fact that the system costs of that second job might just outweigh the benefits will be as incomprehensible to you as a computer would have been to a medieval peasant.

The extraordinary blindness to whole systems that pervades our collective consciousness these days is a fairly recent thing – as recently as the 1970s, talk about system costs got far fewer blank stares and non sequiturs than it does today – and I doubt it will last long in historical terms, if only because the hard edge of Darwinian selection separates adaptive cultural forms from maladaptive ones with the same ruthlessness it applies to genetics. While it remains in place, it will likely cause a great deal of damage, but that in itself will tend to accelerate its replacement with some less dysfunctional habit of thought. Ironically, the Theodore Roethke poem with which I started this post offers a cogent reminder of that. It begins:

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We will all, I think, learn a great deal by going where we have to go during the lean and challenging years to come. The hope that we might manage to learn a thing or two in advance of that journey is understandable enough, and the thing has happened now and then in history; still, for reasons already discussed, that hope seems very frail to me just now.

Sharon Astyk writes in response (from a longer post):

One of the things that I've argued a number of times is that along with vast influxes of energy and resources, we've never had long periods of economic growth in the modern era without shifting huge portions of the population out of the informal economy and into the formal one. in my essay "Peeling the Onion" I track the history of these moves - from the 1930s into the 1970s, the massive elimination of American and European farmers and the shift of farm and subsistence workers into the formal economy represents the first major wave. The second one, beginning in the 1960s (actually, it began in the 1940s - despite 50s mythos, women working outside the home never did decline to pre-war levels or anything like it) was the large scale move towards two income households. And since the 1980s, there has been the massive shift of workers in the Global South into factories and cities.

In all these cases, these shift simultaneously create new workers and new consumers - and I think it is important to remember this because there are strains of the energy resource movement that view energy as the primary economic driver. In fact, the very fact that in order to use more energy we have to have more industrial consumers is significant - because we are running bang against the material limits worldwide of more than just oil and gas and coal - we're hitting the end of vast new worker populations to feed that growth.


. . .the women's movement has yet to fully come to terms with the degree to which modern feminism's view of the world, goals and objectives has been shaped by a cheap energy, deeply corporatized society.

A Few Questions

1. Does it make sense to start expanding the household economy, now, even before many would feel that it is needed?

2. Are there tasks that the household economy can take on?

3. In our society, can men feel comfortable if their work is part of the household economy?

4. In your own situation, can you see a place where combining generations (or other relatives) into the same household would be helpful? What obstacles prevent this?

T'aint gonna happen. I would have gone nuts if I had to stay home with my four children all the time. I love'em but if I had to baby sit for a few hours I was a nervous wreak. You are a better man than me buddy if you are a house husband. My wife took care of the kids while I worked 8 - 12 hours a day. I mean hard work where I had to use a shovel and pick ax. I think I still had the better deal. Many women are finding they don't want to be home with the children. If they have to give every cent of their pay away for child care that's what they will do. To be honest, that's what I did. I gave every cent I made to my wife, happy to carry my meals to work, just give me enough for gas honey.

I have a sister-in-law who home schools their four daughters. The kids are extremely well behaved--and have been as long as I can remember. They generally don't watch television--I think there are one or two educational shows they watch a week. The kids have certain responsibilities and spend quite a bit of time reading books. We all enjoy being around them and playing with them when we get together.

There are differences in kids, but I think there also may be differences in how they are raised. They were treated with great respect from the time they were very small, but at the same time, there are high expectations of them. The girls have been in some activities with other home schooled kids, but generally have not been around too many other kids.

(For the record, I'm male.)

Although lineman's work circumstances may be different, I think the issue is not that children are "badly behaved", but that they aren't adults (and making them adult-before-their-time is not really doing the best for them) with the wide range of knowledge and experiences that adults have. So some people, and I include myself in this, would find it very frustrating to spend all day AND the non-going-out evenings (most of them) dominantly in the company of children, just because I'd miss the opportunity to engage in stimulating adult-level conversation (in contrast to the stimulating child-level conversation that you're talking about above, which is fun in small amounts). Not to say that I wouldn't do it if it was required by the situation, and maybe future circumstances will force me into that role. But that's different from saying that it'd be what I'd choose given other childcare options.

I did what many people would like to do--worked part time (30 hours week, or a little more), and hired someone to come in and take care of my children, pick up kids from school, and handle quite a bit of the housework, so it wouldn't be there when I got home. That combination worked pretty well for me, since I got out, and I wasn't away from the family too much. But this arrangement is more expensive than the average arrangement, and most professionals can't work part time for years.

My sister-in-law actually has a lot of interactions with other home school mothers and with her church group.

Staying at home all day with children would be difficult--but I expect if mom were working in the fields, and children trailing along behind, it would be different. Not sure how much better.

Gail my children were all well behaved thanks to my wife. I loved playing with them as children but to be at home with them and their many needs would drive me a little nuts. My son is an RN and works at the local emergency room, I have daughter that was is the air force that received her four year degree prior to the end of her four year enlistment paid for entirely by the military. I lost a son at twenty in an auto accident. My oldest daughter is mentally handicapped and still lives with my wife and myself. I can't hardly believe that I have a son that is a nurse and a daughter that joined the military. Seems like role reversal to me, but I'm old and what do I know. They are happy and I'm happy for them.

Heh, if Obama raises unemployment to 20% or higher, do you seriously think there'll be any choice involved ? At some point the long-term out of work people are going to start calling it quits, and they'll start realizing the choice is between divorce (whether actual or merely getting thrown out by your girl/boyfriend) or "home" work. Having children will be the sole productive endeavor they can engage in.

While there will be many more men making this choice than in, say, the 1930's that percentage is still going to be on the low side. I'd be exceedingly surprised if it were to exceed even 20% of the stay-at-home-moms and dads.

I personally find the article ignores the elephant in the room :
Let’s grant at the outset, therefore, that there’s no particular reason why people of one gender ought to be more active in the household economy than people of the other; let’s assume that a great many men will make the choice I did, and work...

Apparently the author hasn't heard of this little detail called "pregnancy". And has some sort of delusion about both human anatomy, hormones and the investment choices made by evolution.

As the chances that the government will be able to pay what Obama is promising, free health and elderly care, are somewhere between "not going to happen" and getting taken away by friendly men in white coats, not having kids will mean dying hungry or from relatively trivial disease. Having kids will obviously remain the sole territory of women. In addition to that, pregnancy puts even the best woman out of commission for at least 5 months (4 before, 1 after the actual delivery). The remaining months, as any father knows, you'll still have to deal with, shall we say, "increased emotions". I also know of many stories of women who were asked to go on maternity leave in order to avoid firing them for the conflicts they were creating.

For any kind of work that involves either physical risk or heavy lifting, evolution has made the choice for us : that work ain't going to be carried out by women. Evolution (and any form of realistic morality) will punish risking growing children, even when still in the womb, with "a cost" that will make one wish to have been a sodomite. Furthermore female bodies just aren't capable of the work, in some cases because of the lower maximum energy levels, in other cases because of the interruptions that pregnancy will demand. You can't have women hunting animals because you can't go for 5 months without catching one. Same goes for farming, as land does not, and will not provide for maternity leave, so any job of this kind carried out by women will need a "hot standby" worker. And if you have one of those, why not just have him do the work ? Easier for the woman, easier on the kids, and generally a lot less hassle. If theoildrum's more "green" posters are right, human labor will become important in the future, as will more traditional methods of catching food, both of these occupations are inherently gender discriminating, and this will not change.

And this is all minor compared to what would happen if somehow the government screws up availability of the hormone stabilizing medicine that is known as "the pill". Without wide and cheap dissemination of these hormone regulating pills, employing women will become very hard indeed. Well, employing one woman might work, but they'll basically lose the ability to work together without iron fisted discipline. If there's any girl or woman who finds this offensive, I encourage you to just test it out : go for 3-4 months without the pill and see just what an effect it has on your disposition and (esp. female) friends.

Although there's hope. Human labor and muscle has long left the top spot in energy efficiency. It may surprise people here, but if you take the whole circle sun->plants->humans energy cycle and a bit of sun->plants->animals->humans energy cycle, humans are less than a millionth efficient (one million watts of incoming sunlight will result in less than one watt of useful work performed by a human, even with agriculture).

So perhaps the very opposite is true : human labour will become less and less important, being shunted out of every aspect of the economy due to efficiency concerns. Humans would be encouraged not to work (in a physical sense), but rather the reverse : to avoid work at all but the most trivial of endeavors. In such a society the inherent gender differences would matter less, maybe even not at all. Maybe it would even be possible, through medical progress and almost 100% teleworking, to have a pregnant woman fully employed for nearly the full term. Of course such a world would be hated by most "green" posters here : due to efficiency limits, all power generation capacity would be, like today, under the control of a few huge companies, maybe even a single one, or worse : the government (and anyone who thinks democracy will mean you as an individual get to influence the government in a world with 12 billion people or more is beyond delusional). Because of the economies of scale, countries would likely get bigger, and less democratic. Furthermore, living in nature will be only for the lucky few, again due to the seriously reduced efficiency of living apart. The whole world would look like third world cities (incidentally anyone who's not visited one should definitely do so).

Same goes for farming, as land does not, and will not provide for maternity leave, so any job of this kind carried out by women will need a "hot standby" worker. And if you have one of those, why not just have him do the work ?

Women can be tougher than you might think. I'll never forget a story by my grandfather about neighbor Russian immigrant farmers. A woman hoeing the sugar beet field was going into labor and asked to leave to have the baby. Her husband's reply was - "Finish the row." She did, then went off to have the baby, then helped organize the celebration party for the birth.

Of course, probably everybody was a lot tougher 100 years ago.


You are so far off base in respect to what women generally speaking are really capable of that it ain't even funny; but if you are only speaking of the CURRENT generation of women and physical work, I will concede you the point instantly. Most of the ones around now can't handle the idea of dirt or sweat or wrinkles or calluses,and would pitch a hissy fit if the idea of real physical work were even mentioned.

But in my younger days I worked alongside farm women who could smack the average male office worker of today around as easily as you could take candy from a baby.I have watched one of my own sisters load and stack fifty sixty pound field crates of peaches on a truck without a second thought-I myself was busy in the next row over,doing the same job.Of course she was young in those days, and she was a big girl, a hundred and forty pounds or so without being fat.

In the real world where real physical work such as farm work is done, people work around pregnancies by sharing work loads and rescheduling work as necessary.

And aren't women the principal agricultural workers in much of the southern hemisphere?

If you mean in Africa, and only on rural farms, then yes. Women produce just about all the food, except for hunting. (Men normally hunt, but hunting has either been outlawed or made impossible. Outlawed, as they say there, by the UN, or made impossible by extinctions. You'd think men would call it quits and start helping in agriculture, but they don't. They still try hunting using ever more destructive means (such as forcing the animals out by burning an entire forest), but don't help the women).

Now one tiny qualification. When we say, in this case, "women work agriculture", you should not think about fields and ... on any kind of reasonable scale. A "field" is about 5m * 5m in southern congo, which produces just enough manioc and spinach to add a touch of spice to the main "USAID" grain). They do not do anything to keep the land fertile, they do not plough, they do not ... (they're ex-muslims, even if they themselves do not know this, they're still using muslim agricultural methods, even though the catholic church (and other churches) are working ridiculously hard to attempt to fix it. But it's slow fixing indeed. They do this in 10 years or so per village. Just convincing people not to accept total permanent dependance on aid is difficult (only way is to teach a different ideology to the children of the village and simply wait for them to take over). In the northeast, muslims are attempting to fight this by further "encouraging" (by murdering, threatening and direct violence, including, I kid you not, eating children alive in front of the parents) total dependance on (extremely unreliable) aid. In the south, there's the mai-mai doing the same).

Retire as soon as you can. If you're smart, you can do it in your 40s (and some can do it even earlier). If you live frugally and have some savings, you're half way there. If you grow most of the food you consume, you're all the way there. Recommended reading:

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won't Get from Your Financial Advisor

"If you live frugally and have some savings, you're half way there. If you grow most of the food you consume, you're all the way there."

Yes, if all you wish to do with the rest of your life is eat, shit and sleep...


Yes, if all you wish to do with the rest of your life is eat, shit and sleep...

What a curious thing to say! You can fill your time with gardening (indeed, you'll have to!), reading, painting, pottery, hobbies, writing a book, participating at TOD, etc.

You silly, twisted boy, you!


Reading I do too much of already (who was it who said there is reading about things, and there are DOING things, and the two are completely different), I have done drawing and painting (not even I like to look at them), and you have read my posts on TOD...do you really think there is much for a somewhat middle of the road cynical slightly mystical optimist to write that anyone would want to read?

Obviously I like to participate on TOD (although I wonder whether it is love or addictive co-dependency) and for me clay is a less friendly medium than paint. That leaves gardening, which I have done, but requires land and being fixed to where you are for an extended period of time...i.e., equals money.

If I have to be honest (and what the hell, might as well) most hobbies I would find engaging involve either money or fuel or both. Hey, I'm an AMERICAN! :-)


"Yes, if all you wish to do with the rest of your life is eat, shit and sleep..."

What opting out of the 2 job rat race has meant is the freedom to do the things we want to do. The above of course, but also learning new skills,volunteering, making new friends, seeing grandchildren, having real conversations, reading, relaxing and watching in bemusement at the stressed out neighbours working their butts off to be able to afford two weeks in the sun once a year and send their pre school kids to drama school.

One neighbour is working in Germany weekly (home to UK at weekends) and his wife works too. He's hassling his wife over their huge electricity bills and heating costs but he's too busy to sort them out, as she is. He's expecting redundancy, if it comes he'll have a crash course in downshifting.

My wife will be made redundant in a few weeks. Even if she doesnt get another post the preparations we have made mean that we will survive fine.

The question is, why do people feel the need to earn, earn, earn, when the result is stress and unhappiness? Having sufficient, and being wise enough to be aware of the fact, is priceless.


Dude, you know what your problem is?
You never made any money and had the material wealth thing.
You never got your Porsche Cayman and you watched with envy as all the less cerebral types drove by in theirs.

I have been through the rich man's life and own a big house that is paid for and I drive a BMW M3.

I feel bad for you man.

Don't let your resentments form your opinions.

I fully expect you to unload on me..........I have thick skin.

porge said of me,

"I fully expect you to unload on me..........I have thick skin."

Well porge, I would unload on you, but your just too damn right in many of the essentials of what you said! I do have to give ya' an update though, my latest object of desire is the Ducati 848, Nicky Hayden edition preferred...the Cayman may have to wait! :-)


Ducati? Isn't that a pricey motorbike? Are you saying that on the one hand you scorn early retirement, while on the other you slaver at the mouth for expensive, fossil-fuel burning toys? It figures, I guess. I wonder why you participate at TOD though? I would have thought less cerebral venues would be more appealing. Cheers.

"I wonder why you participate at TOD though? I would have thought less cerebral venues would be more appealing. Cheers."

Hey, I can do both, I'm a primate ya' know, we can multi-task. :-)
And calling a Ducati a motorbike is a bit like calling a Brancusi a lump of bronze. Don't go cerebral on me...:-) How early a retirement can I have on $16,000 bucks....trust me, I have done the numbers...


That is an awesome piece of machinery.
The desmodromic valve train itself is a marvelous feat of engineering.

You are a better man than me buddy if you are a house husband. My wife took care of the kids while I worked 8 - 12 hours a day. I mean hard work where I had to use a shovel and pick ax. I think I still had the better deal. Many women are finding they don't want to be home with the children. If they have to give every cent of their pay away for child care that's what they will do. To be honest, that's what I did.

You are an honest man, hotrod! Thank-you for that.

Back in the early 1980s, when our son was a toddler, my husband (then in the Air Force) took a week's leave to be a house husband when I started a job and there was a week before childcare was available.

On the second day when I came home from work, hubby (normally a mild-mannered, easy-going guy) began a rant: "How can you stand this? He's driving me crazy! What do you do when he (fill in the blank)?"

I laughed and I laughed. Many a parent, male and female, who dearly love their children, still gladly escape each day to a job.

Part of the problem is the solitary nature of the work. In cultures and historical time periods when multiple generations lived together or nearby, there was someone to hand off to, some else for the children to turn to. Plus, in the past, the children, from a young age, were expected to work. They were given small tasks when younger - even as young as five years old in colonial America.

A lone individual, deprived for most of the day of other adult company, and expected to basically "entertain" children all day, is bound to grow weary of the job.

Like you, hotrod, my husband was glad to have me stay at home or work part time, and turn his paycheck over to the family.


What I like about JMG's idea is that it's possible for people to do this right now, without anybody's permission. What's more, it's a better way to live.

My wife and I have done this ... traded a high-status way of life for peace of mind and contentment.

You do need to watch your money and not care what the Joneses think. (They don't like my 20-year-old pickup for instance.)

It's easier to do if there are several of you who can get along together.

Recently I posted some excerpts about "Possum Living," a simple-living classic written by a remarkable 18-year-old young woman in the late 70s:

Bart / EB

Bart, exactly. One of the things I've been trying to bring up in posts is that there are quite a few things people can do right now to get ready for the postpeak world, and a lot of them actually produce a net benefit for the individual, family, and community right here and now.

Indeed. I think a lot of the posters here will probably miss the point of your article. The first comment struck me that way.

Softisek, it's been my experience that out of any group of people who encounter the ideas I'm trying to get into circulation, 40% of them say "Oh, I'm sure they'll think of something;" 30% say "No, no, [insert favorite technology here] will solve all our problems;" and 20% say "No, no, [insert favorite apocalypse here] will wipe everyone out next Thursday so it doesn't matter.' That leaves 10%. I write for the 10%.

I think it's probably a lot less than 10% but we really need more than 50% to be able to transition in a planned way.

However, if even 5% could get the message and start to act accordingly, that would be awesome.

Part of the reason people don't get it is because they don't want to. A lot of people truly enjoy their modern lifestyles, maybe sophisticated metropolitan or focused on sports and leisure activities, surrounded with comfort and technology, whatever. The kind of lifestyle described here is genuinely unappealing, too boring, seems too dirty, perhaps sounds like too much work, or is simply too far outside of anything they can relate to. Certainly it's a long, long way from the Star Trek set. Often that shows up as ridicule, like the "eat, shit and sleep" comment above, or this from Stuart's recent Early Warning post:

In their (probably limited) spare time, they make beautiful carved wooden objects and compose elaborate love poems and uplifting songs expressing their gratitude for being a human being in such a wonderful civilization (well, civilization is probably the wrong word here: let's just say society).

All that tells me is that many people will have a very hard time adjusting to a low external energy lifestyle. Having fewer fossil fuel "energy slaves" inevitably means doing more of that work yourself. But if you really don't like that idea, then you ignore it, hope technology will save you from it, find other ideas to cling to, etc.

Yeah, I really wish that those who don't want to think, get the f away from my computer. I like discussion about all of this shit and I'm truly willing to change my opinions if someone can show me good solid rational arguments for why we don't really need to change much and that technology will save us. I've been waiting for five years, for those.

I'm disappointed in Stuart, though he sometimes seems on the brink of understanding, so I'm hoping he can be a strong rational voice in all of this, at some point.

John, if that is not too familiar, Mr. Greer seems awkward,

10% of your readers is doing well. It only takes .05% of the population to effect change. Your thoughts will eventually get picked up and echoed by the wider society and mainstream press.

We have a huge, just huge amount of slack in our economy and the way we organize to do things. I'm seeing a lot of reorganization already happening on the ground, without ideological motivation.

Baby steps, but there are a lot of baby steps happening out there. Three years ago the ladies were talking about shopping for clothes with tiresome frequency (anything over zero is tiresome from my perspective.) Now they are talking about having Naked Lady parties where they get together to chat and munch and swap the used clothes in their closets for someone else's used clothes. Who knows what the next baby step is, quilting bees perhaps.

Baby steps is great, and maybe they can lead to something, but I think that without the right mindset, it's a case of just a few people altering a little bit of their lives so that they can continue to participate in a BAU society. That is, I see little to no real change of mindset.

Give it up JMG..., we're flushing ourselves down the toilet.

Of course, it doesn't HAVE to be "all or nothing". There is a continuum of options between full-time away-from home employment and being totally out of the money-in-exchange-for-work economy, just as there is a also continuum of options between buying everything one needs in the money economy and doing it all yourself in the household economy.

The thing is, though: most people COULD start doing more things for themselves in their household economy RIGHT NOW, even without quitting their jobs. Most people could make more of an effort to cook their own meals rather than rely so much on restaurants or fast food. Eventually, they could even learn to cook real food from scratch, if they don't already have those skills. Most people could at least grow a few tomatoes in containers; gradually, they could expand to the point where they could be producing quite a lot of food at home, witrh just a little effort before or after work and on weekends. Of course, there is no end to the number of DIY things that one could do around the home. Judging from the shoppers at Home Depot and Lowes, the auto parts stores, the craft and fabric stores, etc., it isn't really the case that nobody does anything for themselves any more.

If people are eventually going to have to rely more on the household economy and less on the money economy, then doesn't it make sense to get started now and to transition into it gradually? I suppose there are some people who can just take the plunge, quite their job one day, and devote themselves full time to household economy activities from there on. There are some, but that is really going to be hard for most people. A gradual transition will work a lot better for most.

As far as the employment end of this goes, it doesn't have to be full-time employment or nothing, either. We all know about part-timers, temps, contract workers, freelancers, etc. There are lots of options out there for people who are not in a position to totally leave the money economy, but either don't want to or can't have full-time jobs. Maybe there will be more such opportunities in the future, our economy really does seem to be moving in that direction as a long-term megatrend.

What JMG said about the marginal costs vs. marginal income of working if very much true, though. This same observation was one of the central themes of Your Money or Your Life, which is an interesting book with lots of good thinking along these lines. People really should take the effort to calculate their real net take-home income. A lot of people would indeed be truly shocked at how little the 2nd wage earner really makes per hour. For a lot of people, it is actually far less than minimum wage, and maybe not much more than what a lot of people in third world countries make per hour. Some people are even actually PAYING for the privilege of driving into work and spending their days there.

Of course, there is one thing that looms very large in the USA context, and greatly distorts the economics of the situation for much of the population: health insurance. Because we have this crazy, idiot system where helah insurance is linked to employment, we have LOTS of people who hold down a job solely to get health insurance coverage. The recent 2000+ page legislation only helps with this a little bit, it does not fundamentally change the system, so many perverse incentives and distortions are still there, and will be for a long time.

You are right about the health insurance. We had one set of neighbors, where the wife was a school teacher, and the husband was a photographer. The reason she worked was because of the need to get health insurance. A self-employed photographer couldn't get health insurance.

I think mindset has a lot to do with it. I'm quitting my job at the end of the month to concentrate full time on working towards a post-peak (and probably post-collapse) world. In financial terms, having to live off what was once my pension fund (I'm 56 and can't officially retire for 9 years) may seem crazy to some but I can't see our kind of society surviving, as is, for another decade. With an outlook that doesn't buy into the assumption of perpetual growth, it's a much easier descision to make. Fortunately, we have no mortgage, but we still, currently, need to buy most of our food as well as pay utility bills and taxes.

My wife doesn't work, so we will have no income, except what our grown children pay for their upkeep. But it still seems absolutely the right decision and it feels like the best decision I've made in a long time.

I have mixed feelings about these ideas. On the one hand I have known many fulfilled and happy people who mostly stay at home. On the other hand, one of the few things economists are right about is that prosperity for society as a whole increases as more people have full employment. Now we can argue about how we get there i.e. private growth vs. government but the point remains the same: full employment creates the virtual cycle and anything else inhibits it. Of course you also need energy and environmental inputs etc. but why can't we have people working full time in say road/sewer maintenance, building wind turbines, solar panels etc.? So yes it's not just full time employment - what you are doing matters too - much better if the working class were well trained plumbers than soldiers shipped to Afghanistan, and better if the educated were engineers and not financiers and marketing shills for corporations.

Moreover there's the big elephant in the room - commuting. If commutes were better then many more people would enjoy full time employment as opposed to the anomie of the current American landscape. Not to mention excessive ethnic diversity, income inequality etc. which take their toll.

However it appears the whole world is really going downhill in this regards. I mean, where do people work full time and really in their heart enjoy it, get to keep their money, and really feel the forward march of progress? Perhaps China - but only for some upper level managers, the common folk have next to nothing. Japan and Germany must have felt this way for much of the 20th century i.e. building quality stuff with your hands.

Once the downslope hits this discussion is mute. Nobody is even going to want to work in an obviously failing system- they will enjoy their temp jobs and spend the rest of their time with their pets and gardening.

Oilman, the economists are wrong. What increases as employment goes up isn't prosperity, but abstract and ultimately arbitrary measures of prosperity such as gross domestic product, and they go up only because labor that formerly produced goods and services in the domestic economy is transfered to the money economy, where it shows up in economists' statistics. An economy in which a third of the work force works solely in the domestic economy can be more prosperous in real terms -- that is to say, it cam provide more goods and services to individuals and families -- even though the total amount of money per capita may be a good deal lower.

Well yes we are returning to home and hearth but it comes with a price, namely a great deflation and the possibility of massive unrest and totalitarian movements, etc. One would hope we can do this peacefully and people can manage lowered money expectations with grace. Somehow I think fascism is in the cards as well.

Oilman, granted, there's going to be a massive amount of economic contraction in the near, middle, and far future. White's Law holds that the best measure of economic development is energy per capita; the end of the age of cheap fossil fuels promises a sharp decline in energy per capita; we can all do the math from there. This makes it all the more urgent to move toward more resilient economies outside the money system, which will be disproportionately affected by the contraction.

I think we need to get beyond the notion of prosperity which I think mainly has the connotation of being "prosperous" which is primarily related to one's view of how one compares to others within society or within the neighborhood.

As soon as one focuses more on wellness, quality of life, leisure, and control over one's life, one's priorities change in addition to one's view of what constitutes the prosperous life.

I think formal employment increases consumption not just because one has more money but because most people are not getting much in the way of non monetary value out of employment. Therefore, they attempt to make their jobs more meaningful by spending more money which somehow helps justify their miserable existence. I personally found much less need to consume crap after I retired and my income was cut in much less than half.

Time is a precious commodity. Having more time is definitely worth the reduced income.

Duh. With all due respect to our esteemed essayists, it's already happening in the real world, and with nobody's permission and not a lot of theorizing.

For example, a former two earner couple of my acquaintance has gone through various layoffs, job searches and periods of unemployment in the last two years with first one, then the other, then the first one again out of work. With each round, they simplified their lives and adjusted their expectations.

After the dust settled, one has a job which earns less than either made before and the other one is running a frugal household. And they like it that way. They slowed down a lot, do more for themselves, have more time together. In losing the jobs, they lost the stress of caring about chasing status goods. In fact, they lost a lot of stress.

I read the archdruid post at energybulletin and enjoyed it as always; and I think it's cool that a wife can work while the husband is being something as cool as an "archdruid". Having women free to work so men can wear funny hats and do Important Stuff like helping save the world is not only viable, it's vital. And vice-versa genderwise, of course. I say that affectionately to all concerned, from beneath more than a few metaphorical funny hats of my own.

I've never understood men having problems with their wives making more money than they do. When it's happened in our family, I've clicked my heels. Heck, there was one year my dog made more than I did, no joke, and I still happily thought of her as my dependent for tax purposes. Of course, with modern communications, the household economy can include such things as running spy networks in foreign countries from a terminal in the bedroom, and arguably should. Having a subsistence income from one salary can enable the other partner to do things a lot cooler than knitting and babysittting.

Indeed, in this magic transitional time while the internet is still functional, 50 lbs of rice may be bought for 5 hours of minimum-wage work, and people aren't yet summarily shot for odd pastimes, there's not much citizens of the USA can't do at home that they now do in offices. Aside from building jumbo jets, launching foreign invasions, outsourcing tasks to china, and raising corn, current US jobs in aggregate seem to just constitute an oddly-evolved distribution method for the largesse of our fossil energy slaves, not a set of actual tasks which need doing. (And at our house we've dabbled in all but the jumbo jets).

As I mentally riffle my early jobs like a deck of cards, I'm impressed at how little most of them contributed to a hypothetical sane society's needs. There's something to be said for just conceiving of something usefully outrageous and doing it. What's the point of existing at the apogee of the most top-heavy societal overbuild in this arm of the galaxy if one must still spend his or her days pretending the daily grind as a cog in the Great Industrial Overshoot is somehow useful?

While real boxes are closing in, the boxes which currently circumscribe our actions are largely in our minds. There's something to be said for immediately adopting a subsistence lifestyle while using any actual cash for interesting pastimes. YMMV.

Hi Greenish, Your post reminds me of an old hillbilly joke, the punch line being, "Naw, it don't bother me none cause my old lady makes more than I do, cause she makes more than you do."

I know of a couple of very successfil young farmwers who stay home and look after the house and the farm, which is in essence an extended out into the fields home, while thier wives work as teachers.As a matter of fact they are the only ones around capable of buying property and expanding thier operations.

And while it is accepted as holy writ here that growth and expansion are bad things,my guess is that nearly all the readers are still chasing prosperity and status.

A stay at home spouse working on long term projects can be the key to real wealth, if the little acorns so planted eventually grow into mighty oaks.

I grew up in a community where the household economy was a mainstay;and there can be no doubt that if the stay at home partner is capable, the contribution to the living standard can be huge.

JMG did his usual very fine job but in the excerpt at least he did not emphasize that the tax savings come from both ends of the candle;my maternal grandmother probably performed four or five thousand haircuts over a period of six or seven decades.The parasite economy garnered nothing from this essential service.

Many members of my family have accumulated substantial assetts they would never have otherwise owned by doing things for themselves.The house we live in was built mostly by my father with the help of a single professional carpenter on an intermittent basis over a period of three years.The savings ran to at least fifty percent, and there was never a mortgage, meaning the money most people spend on interest stayed with him. His sweat equity was legally tax free.

Hi Mac, good to see you here on a lazy saturday (at least it is one here; overcast and down to 70 degrees so we hunker down... no wait, there goes the wife out to run the border collie).

My mom is just about 88 and non-ambulatory, and she still cuts my hair, what there is left of it, and is proud of doing so... not that you'd expect she would be to look at my hair, but with what she has to work with she does pretty well with shaky hands.

My wife and I pretty much teach ourselves to do everything possible, from medical research to being our own lawyers, to selling our own property, to designing and building our own house, to about everything else. We glean used stuff, and eat the marked-down produce that's not shiny enough for the food bank to accept. And we have done this even during periods we jointly made into the reasonable 6 figures, because we agreed to redefine what constitutes "prosperity", and spent any "excess" funds on interesting projects in the greater world that nobody else was doing.

Prosperity, by our lights, is having a place to be, having basic healthy food, and having exceeded one's own standards for achievements met and lives well-spent. Status is something we don't pursue much; it's part of the consensus trance. Yet as near as I can tell, we haven't given up anything worth having. Funny thing that.

Exactly- Even though we have apples and peaches in commercial quantities, we seldom cook or freeze a perfect piece of fruit, and when we eat a piece fresh, it is apt as not to be blemished in some way.

All of my ancestors so far back as I have records have lived this way, and all of them lived to a very ripe old age.I have been able to avoid the rat race for the most part by living the same way myself;I have had literally dozens of jobs, but I kept most of them only a few weeks or months-just long enough to learn the basics, or to get enough money to drop out again for a few more months.

A lot of my acquaintances think I have wasted my life, but I have spent many a Monday morning on a riverbank with my line inthe water and a classic novel or history book in my lap.

I had one very good friend along the way who felt the same way, and we used to delay our departure sometimes until the freeway was busy (when our chosen destination was across town) just to enjoy the sour looks sent our way by the commuters already well into thier first package of antiacid tablets. there is nothing like the sight of a couple of deadbeat no good scruffy loafers with a fishing boat early on a monday morning to ruin an anally retentive republicans day.

I'm old now, and have very little money as a result of my casual attitude in respect to earning money regularly, but if I had it to do over again, I would work even less. Preacher sez, the past is history,the future is mystery, and there is only now.This is why we call it THE PRESENT. Presently I will join my ancestors on the cemetery on the hill at the nearby Baptist church, where my mortal remains will molder slowly away, the decay process being inhibited by the embalming process.The real me, the ghost in my machine so to speak, will have ceased to exist, except as a memory trace in the minds of a few relatives and friends.

I cannot see anybody who spends his alloted days pursueing such trivial goals as a nicer car and a bigger house as being very smart, unless he truly enjoys his work. My personal opinion, courtesy of Thoreau, is that the vast mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and given a real choice, would be doing something else entirely .

Of course we are programmed to act that way, but some very famous and capable scientist , I think it was Stephen Pinker,said his genes could just go jump in the lake.There are plenty of copies of my genes around as it is-there are hundreds of people related to me living within an hours drive.

My only real regret is that I never found the right woman, one who thought the same way and was also REALLY good in bed-really good in my estimation meaning able to carry on and enjoy a serious conversation at three am any night. But I did enjoy several fairly long term relationships , so all was not lost.

Sounds like a good life,oldfarmermac. I envy you!


Oilman said: "Once the downslope hits this discussion is mute. Nobody is even going to want to work in an obviously failing system- they will enjoy their temp jobs and spend the rest of their time with their pets and gardening."

It occurs to me that this is where we've been for years now. My last "full time, formal job", 55+ hour/week, ended about 15 years ago. The idea of taking another full time job doesn't make sense to me, considering my world view (though I may be forced into it by the "system"). Having multiple part time/self employment jobs provides resiliency, but generally lower pay and benefits. I think it's smart not to have all eggs in one basket these days. Even the stay-at-home spouse should have something "on the side", even if it's only $100/week, or a day volunteering. One never knows when one will need the connections/contacts found in gainful employment, even if only a few hours a week.

lineman wrote:
"I love'em but if I had to baby sit for a few hours I was a nervous wreak. You are a better man than me buddy if you are a house husband."

"Many women are finding they don't want to be home with the children. If they have to give every cent of their pay away for child care that's what they will do."

Together, that's what we have a lot of these days, and all the results: upside-down mortgages, high divorce rates, and f'ed up kids.

JMG's post is a bit about deciding how you and your spouse/partner are going to fit into the system, and work it to your benefit. As they say, your mileage will vary.

i couldnt agree more. the expansion of the workforce from one income, more or less, to two has a parallel in the expansion of the workforce with cheap imported, often illegal imigrant, labor.

retirement for many is unfortunately an opportunity to consume more. buy a motor home, travel, buy lots of stuff for the grandkids, in other words consume more.

a while back, it was all the fashion in the financial advice sphere to plan on spending 85%, or some such, of your current income. what an unmitigated crock. by working in the home economy, one should be able to get along on a fraction of the recommendation of these financial "experts".

also, imo, children need at least one full time parent, mommy or daddy or mommy or mommy or daddy or daddy.

this current two income model is nothing more than an addiction - addiction to consumption, imo. that and women wanting to play the old boys game -fulfillment or some such weasel sh1t phrase.

A married couple I know has been doing this back and forth for years. One of them works and the other does whatever he/she wants for self fulfillment. I met the husband while he was volunteering for a museum. Later he worked for the museum for pay while his wife worked on her masters degree. They are a very happy couple.

I'll go out on a limb and predict a long-term return to the extended family. The nuclear family is an artifact of prosperity and physical/social mobility. That home economy and old fashioned child rearing works better with a grandparent or two, an aunt, or a couple of cousins around to pitch in on group tasks and give the parents a break. Lower tech systems require more maintenance and day-to-day attention, which increases the advantage of having Grandad puttering around with his tool box and Cousin Jane keeping an eye on the chickens. Hokey examples, but we presently rely on a great deal of convenience technology that in turn relies on cheap, reliable access to high quality energy. That gets replaced with human presence.

I think the one issue I worry about with extended family is taking care of the very old. My husband's father is 91, and lives in an assisted living center near us. Without adult disposable diapers, and in a house with a lot of stairs, he would be very difficult to take care of.

Don't worry too much about that Gail. Living long will be a relic of the oil age, and life expectancy will decrease on the downslope. People will naturally expire of heart attacks, cancer, infectious diseases and other ailments as they have for millenia.

So yes you'll have a bad six months nursing your loved ones in failing health, but there won't be hospitals with advanced technologies or ICU's or endless treatments (or it will be prohibitively expensive).

It's not too pleasant to talk about, but death is making a comeback (as if it ever really went away). We often forget but for most of human history it was a regular occurance for all ages of people - infants, childrens, adults, elderly - to die. But life moved on.

Part of the reason this idea goes down like a lead balloon is one of terminology.

"Household Economy", for better, or for worse, seems to conjure visions of a second-class activity, steeped in drudgery, tremendously routine, gender-specific and immediately linked to childcare. Which may, or may not, be the case.

Perhaps if one termed it "Informal Economy", it would take on a different shape altogether.

The "Informal Economy" in Mexico, for example, has been estimated to account for up to 40% of GDP, and it certainly is a country known for "machismo".

That is a good point. The informal economy doesn't sound so much like childcare.

I think too that with our current arrangements, it is not clear that there is too much for people who stay home to do, especially if they don't have children, other than take excessive care of their homes. It seems to me that there are people (women mostly), who spend more of their lives competing for the most nicely decorated homes, homes in the most perfect order, and the fanciest parties. Unless there is a need to do things from scratch, and a convenient way for this to be done, I am afraid that many people will find themselves competing in a new arena, if they are not working outside the home.

Isn't that the truth, Gail?

Waves of competitiveness and one-upmanship just radiate from some groups. Ugh!

In the short-term, I think the easiest thing to do is to arrange one's social life away from such people, and find groups with better values.

You raise a good point, that unless people are aware of the wonderful things that can be done in the Informal Economy, they will be miserable or dysfunctional.

That's why efforts like Transition are so important. They help us re-learn the old social patterns of our forebearers. This re-socializing is much deeper than it appears at first - a roundabout solution to our social anomie, consumerism, need for community and resilience. And it is deeply satisfying in a way that corporate work and buying stuff is not.

Some ideas:

  • Gardening
  • Cooking and preserving food
  • Doing things with the extended family
  • Learning something new.
  • Helping out
  • Volunteer work (like TOD editing)
  • Making music
  • Working on a scientific problem
  • Reading and putting on plays with friends

Bart / EB

"The "Informal Economy" in Mexico, for example, has been estimated to account for up to 40% of GDP, and it certainly is a country known for "machismo"."

Yes, and look how well the Mexican citizens and women lived compared to those in the U.S.! With an example like that to use, I am surprized everyone has not jumped on this cause and made it a campaign for the future!


Your comment may be connected to the size of tax revenues, political structures and access to resources.

Mexico is still trying to figure out a way to tax the "Informal Economy". The huge loss of revenue certainly is an issue when trying to support public services.

As tax revenues fall in the US, it is apparent that living standards will drop, as education and access to medical care falls out of reach of the average person. I don't think the US can afford to ignore the way "third world" economies work - it's in our future.

Pride comes before a fall, as the old folks say.

Hi. This is my first post on TOD, although I have been a regular reader for about one year, since roughly the same point that I began to understand the unsettling predicament facing the industrial economy. My name is Bill, and I'm 26 years old. I have a B.S. in Bioprocess Chemical Engineering. Since I graduated a few years ago, I've been working at a plant that manufactures clad metal for pressure vessels and various other odd applications.
I fully intend on making the career shift from engineer to househusband/farmer/local sustainability consultant within the next 12 months.
My fiance and I have spent a lot of time discussing the fact that if we live to be as old as our grandparents, we are going to see a myriad of serious crises play out in our lifetimes. Financial troubles at my workplace over the last year, as well as continued monitoring of world events have led us to believe that we are likely to see some significant changes in our lives sooner rather than later.
For us, a logical response to this reality is to prepare for the next paradigm before it gets here.
My fiance is a middle school language teacher, and she enjoys her job much, much more than I do (a guy who is in love with nature working in an industrial manufacturing setting makes for some mean cognitave dissonance!). She is an incredibly understanding and wonderful person for being willing to be the one working in the formal economy (having summers off helps!).
We are extremely lucky, because my parents own a 75 acre farm here in SW Pennsylvania. My plan is for us to move in with my parents for a period of time after we are married and I leave my engineering job. My Mom is aware of what we believe and our plans, and she supports them. My Dad is entering the later stages of Parkinson's disease, which is another motivation for becoming a househusband - the ability to be around to take some of the stress of taking care of him off of my Mom would be huge.

My plan is to grow the majority of our food on the farm while exploring sustainable agricultural practices such as biocentric polycultures, forest gardens, humanure composting, etc. I also plan on experimenting with natural building techniques like cob, stone, and timber-frame/wattle and daub, in a campaign to build a home for my fiance and I on the property. In addition to these two topics, I've also put together a substantial library on herbal medicine, water catchment and purification, and construction of small scale renewable energy. Our farm is especially suited to a windmill.
I will be able to provide the typical househusbandry duties, homegrown food, shelter, some mecidinal needs, and possibly some energy.
We've done a detailed financial breakdown and found that with me getting rid of my car and eliminating rent payments, we will be pretty solid financially.
Will many relatively minor sacrifices need to be made relative to our current lifestyle to make this happen? Sure. We understand that and are willing to take the material sacrifices with the deeper good. It helps that I'd rather be working outside for 10 hour days than sitting in a cubicle in front of a computer. (I guess usually it's the opposite for those who grow up working on farms, but oh well :) )
My real hope is that when economic contraction really begins to hit our local community hard, I will already have a few years experience with which to say - look guys, it is possible to get the majority of the food your family needs from a small area of land and without fossil fuels or artificial additives - look, you can provide a comfortable shelter for your family using primarily materials found on site - look, you can ease your headaches with a mixture of herbs. No need to resort to violence....
I know many of you will think me naive and silly, but I thought I'd share my story and my plans anyway. For me it just feels like both the most logical and the most moral thing to do.

TOD rocks.

Naive and silly, no. Achieveable, not sure. All those crises of which you are aware may make it very difficult for you to achieve your goals. What I am amazed by is how you and your fiance are so much on the same page at least from your perspective. That you have talked these things through prior to marriage bodes well for your marriage, regardless of how our world shakes out.

Rdberg, thank you for the positive thoughts on our marriage. You have a good point that all of the things I have planned may not be acheivable, and we do view it as a risk that could wind up making things really difficult. However, the risk of remaining dependent on the industrial economy in the decades ahead seems like the larger risk. I have confidence that we can make it work. :)

Thanks for all your thoughts, and more power to you. All of this would be much easier to do if you were part of a larger community doing this. Even learning all the skills is more than most of us are willing to take on.

Yeah, I really wish that more people in my local community were more aware of the energy and ecological issues we face and willing to work with me in trying some different things. Unfortunately, I don't think that my community would respond well to such a message of lifestyle adjustments. Maybe I should try some different things and see what happens? I've actually tried to work with local politicians on building a local economy with local supply chains over the past year, but I haven't really gotten anywhere. Everyone still shops at Wal-Mart!

Welcome to the oil Drum, Lorax.

Your plan sounds good to me.If I may I will make a couple of suggestions-spend a good bit of time looking first hand at other peoples results rather than experimenting first when it comes to alternative technologies, particularly agricultural technologies..

This saves a lot of time and headaches.

An engineer is superbly trained for an alternative life style such as you suggest,in most respects. But I have met only a very few engineers who have taken some course in the basic life sciences.You wouldn't want me in your factory trying out things with my limited understanding of engineering principles and practices-there are very good reasons for standard engineering practices, right? I would probably either blow the place up or burn it down within a very short period of time.

I often cringe when I see some of the comments posted concerning forestry and agriculture by persons who are well educated in other fields.

If you haven't had the basic courses in biology, the first two years worth, you will find yourself seriously handicapped in terms of understanding what really goes on on a farm.

About half of what you will see and read concerning agriculture is either pure organic bovine derived fertilizer, or mistaken. A favorite point made by medical school professors to thier graduating students is that half of everything they have been taught is wrong, but unfortunately, nobody is sure which half is which.

Incidentally I expect somebody from Dr Suess incorporated to post a cease and desist comment in respect to your handle. ;)

Thanks very much for your thoughful response, I appreciate the advice!
Since my degree is in bioprocess chemical engineering, I was fortunate enough to complete coures in cell biology, microbiology(including a lab), biochemistry, and organic chemistry while in college. These life-centered science courses were by far my favorite, and they really gave me a deep appreciation of the beautiful complexity of life.
I know that I still have a long way to go to apply these generalities to sustainable farming, and so I've dropped some dough on Mollison's thick "Permaculture" textbook, as well as on a soil chemistry and microbiology texts, and a few books about composting human waste.
I think that I'm kind of stuck with teaching myself from books, as I have never heard of any place nearby that I can get a hands on look at truly sustainable agricultural practices. I've thought about traveling a bit to take a hands on course. When you suggest that I spend some time looking at other people's results firsthand, is this what you mean? I could easily witness industrial farming techniques by traveling around the local county, but I learned first hand about the destructive potential of industrial agricultural methods by watching my Dad farm growing up. Lol.

Ahh.. yeah, I totally forgot to consider copyright laws when I thought of my handle.. haha

Lorax, you are well fixed for a run at farming and no mistake.

Yes, I meant actually visiting and spending time with alternative methods farmers, builders, etc.You can learm more from a hired hand than you can the operator sometimes-he is not embarassed to admit the shortcomings and compromises which the boss will generally gloss over.

One example: A nieghbor raises pick your own cherries, and appears to be making a lot of money.But I know that he has been sued numerous times, and lost some lawsuits, despite having taken all the usual steps to protect himself, and also being lucky enough to live in a legally conservative state.I know because I just happen to know a couple of people who hang around the courthouse, and his right hand man, rather well-he grew up next door.This farmer has never made any money because the lawsuits and insurance bills have taken almost all of it.(Lawsuits of this sort don't usually make it into the papers, unless somebody winds up paralyzed or crippled for life, which has not happened-yet)

The positive tends to be overemphasized and the negative glossed over in virtually every published article in my opinion;but this is to be expected, due to the nature of getting published in the print media and the necessity of selling lots of copies.Most people publishing on the net as individuals are too interested in advocacy to be truly impartial, and often don't know the whole story any way.

My estimate of your situation is that given the fact that you will have the use of improved (but possibly degraded)land,meaning cleared, fenced, with some outbuildings, etc,and some equipment, you can afford to try out the alternative methods, and you can probably do just fine using them.

Please, however-do not make the mistake of assuming that if you were dependent on immediate results and paying for that land and equipment, and without the cushion provided by your wife's salary,and without the excellent all around engineering background,that you would succeed in such an endeavour.

I am all in favor of good ecologically sound methods, but I am not impressed with the track record of people using so called alternative methods as far as competing in the wholesale market is concerned.The ones I know of personally who are making a go financially are situated where they can do upscale marketing and get a considerable price premium.

That might not be possible at your location.But if you are near a large and prosperous town or better yet , a good sized city,you are holding another ace-more like a wild duece, actually, which is even better.

Again, I really appreciate the opportunity to listen to the opinions and recommendations a man of some experience.
Your neighbor who does “pick your own”… what does he get sued for? I’m assuming people falling from the trees while picking cherries? I’m really curious, because as I’ve been putting in and caring for 18 fruit and nut trees in my spare time this Spring, “pick your own” is something that I was mulling over.
I definitely understand that without the support of my future wife, the free land offered to me by my parents, and an engineering background that will not only aid me in my future plans, but has enabled me to make really good money in the formal economy for a few years and become totally debt free, I wouldn’t be able to undertake my ambitious plans for househusbandry/developing sustainable technology. I am very, very grateful for the opportunity.
With regard to competing with the wholesale market, there is a farmers market in the town about 10 miles away. I know that any income from sales there would be extremely modest, but that’s OK. No one can see the future, but I’m pretty darn certain that as energy and mineral resources become more and more scarce in the years ahead, the market for food grown locally and sustainably is going to easily be much larger than that for food grown hundreds or thousands of miles away with energy intensive methods. If I have to go for a few years of strictly subsistence farming until the market shifts in this direction, we’ll be OK. I may even have to take some part time work or get back into engineering for a year or two because BAU happens to carry on for longer than I’m anticipating, but at least I will have laid a solid foundation for the future.
One thing I forgot to mention, the entire household I’ll be providing food for – Mom, Dad, myself and my fiancé – are all vegan with the exception that we eat some egg roughly every ten days. So, my plans for the farm include a diverse array of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains. And some hens.

The lawsuits are as you rightly deduced about injuries sustained or supposedly sustained while the customers are on the property.

Picking tree fruit is a very dangerous job for anyone who is not possessed of excellent balance,presence of mind, reflexes, muscle tone, and judgement.
Judgement in this respect can only be acquired by experience,starting out slowly on easy ground and small trees.Obviously thr typical customer will not be at all well prepared to be climbing ladders and stretching , reaching for the fruit.

If you want to do pick your own, which can be profitable,either stick to dwarf varieties of trees on level smooth ground, and keep your fingers crossed, or better, raise crops such as strawberries and blueberries.

Hmmm.. all good things to consider and ponder. Thanks!

The UK government is slowly increasing the retirement age from 65 to 70 for men and bringing the women's age into sync from 60. This makes good actuarial sense as there is less time for retirees to claim their state pensions before they pop their clogs but, as ever, there is a down side.

One of the benefits of a mandated state retirement age is that it constantly frees up positions and everyone moves up a slot which ultimately creates entry level jobs for youngsters fresh out of school. This is even the case when no new jobs are being created.

Hence, without real new jobs being created a higher retirement age will effectively shutout the youngsters from the job market - which seems to be happening: right now in the UK fully one million people aged 18-24 are completely without work. In fact the only 'company' to be recruiting from this age bracket en mass recently is the army. And so long as one doesn't mind being shipped off to Afghanistan a spell in the forces is a good idea but it is not for everyone.

Just to clarify for the overseas: the UK state retirement age is merely the age at which an employer can make you retire without needing any cause; they can keep you on if they want to.

I'm always unclear whether the "state retirement age retirees leave from jobs at the high-end" is actually what happens in practice. It seems like in a lot of the "high end" positions people generally have enough clout to keep on working if that's what they want to do (think of all the seventy year old MDs and senior staff you see around), and those that do retire tend to retire permanently because they've got good pensions. What seems to me to be the much bigger practical problem is people who are forcibly retired from muddling-along-mid-level positions (where they aren't blocking ambitious younger people from rising "above" them, and other younger people taking up posts on the same leve) and end up taking part-time low-end positions (cashier, store greeter, etc) to supplement their retirement income. There they are competing with youngsters whilst having the advantage that they've often paid off mortgages and may have some private pension income so they can undercut youngsters on wages.

Ha! You describe one aspect of what they used to call in Denmark "the American plan" because it was devised as part of the Marshall Plan for the post World War II rebuilding of Europe and the USA. Some aspects of the American Plan were passed in the USA but universal day care was killed as "communist."

In Denmark's social system, schools and day care centers (universal, free) are built next to old age apartments so the elderly can volunteer (no need to work, since universal pensions are good). Elderly who do not care for kids can take apartments away from the school/day care side.

Many of the workers at the day care centers are young people considering a career in teaching or child work. To ensure that valuable university resources are not wasted on the feckless, young people must work for two years (paid) in a field related to their interests, just as in this country med school applicants must do 1000 hours of volunteer work with patients.

JMG quote:

I haven’t been able to find statistics.

That's curious.

See Professor Elizabeth Warren's Two Income Trap

(Edited to add link. - Gail)

Warren is great. We're trying to move close to living on just one of our incomes while we use most of the other to pay down mortgage and other bills. Unfortunately, my wife has a bad habit of running up credit card bills.

This is a good article. But it only applies to married couples with young kids. I think modern lifestyles are moving away from kids. Also, we're not just talking about staying at home, we're talking about giving up genuine, interesting, solid careers, where there might be much much more than just a paycheck to be had.

What I do believe is that more than 50% of jobs, some of them these "genuine careers" I describe, are totally worthless to society. A lot of jobs seem to be people trying to sell stuff to other people. Our world is currently based on the requirement that firms generate profits quarter after quarter. Instead of producing goods that last a very long time, we produce faulty stuff that needs to be serviced or replaced. This is wasteful. It requires many people to be working that don't need to be. I think we need a 2-stage process:

1) People recognize that a lot of the work being performed is redundant.
2) Society makes some sort of government-controlled system where those who choose to not work can receive a stipend, paid for by those who do work. Those working will still earn much more, but those not working have more than enough to get by a very modest life.

Yes, we will see a rapid economic contraction as a result. But then, once we are at a point where we are only trading things we truly need, and most of us aren't working, we can start growing the GDP at a slow rate, representing growth in genuine, value-added goods and services.

I think we need to make it the "cool thing" to serve others instead of consuming for ourselves.

At the same time, I propose this could happen without any powerdown or reduction in technological advancement. By the way, these are not my ideas. These are taken from the Zeitgeist Movement, something I'm surprised is not mentioned much more often on this website.

Have you seen 'The Story of Stuff'? A good film to google if you havnt come across it before.

I looked up the Zeitgeist Movement, since I was not familiar with it.

The Goal

The Means is the End:

We intend to restore the fundamental necessities and environmental awareness of the species through the advocation of the most current understandings of who and what we truly are, coupled with how science, nature and technology (rather than religion, politics and money) hold the keys to our personal growth, not only as individual human beings, but as a civilization, both structurally and spiritually. The central insights of this awareness is the recognition of the Emergent and Symbiotic elements of natural law and how aligning with these understandings as the bedrock of our personal and social institutions, life on earth can and will flourish into a system which will continuously grow in a positive way, where negative social consequences, such as social stratification, war, biases, elitism and criminal activity will be constantly reduced and, idealistically, eventually become nonexistent within the spectrum of human behavior itself.

And don't you think in the long term that is what makes most sense?

The movement is extremely pro-technology and believes in education first and foremost.

The only path forward for humanity in the long term is some model like this. But how we get there seriously beats me... Unless the solutions to peak oil will require a brute-force capitalism workaround, which it may in order to build all the stuff we need, I can't see us getting to the zeitgeist point any time soon.

Re the Zeitgeist Movement - read through the manifesto,very high sounding stuff and a lot of it no doubt true.

But right near the end they come out with the real pearl of wisdom - the Earth can handle many,many more Homo saps than at present.

Just another bunch of Pollyannas and their religion is growth.

I have never understood why we would want to handle many more people,even if we could. I would rather maximize the natural world and given some other species some room to live. I don't see our purpose here as procreation without limits, to see if we can push the planet right up to the edge. I like long walks through the forest and don't see the company of lots of other people as a good thing.

Well it's not as if the world was a utopia with less people. Most of the social structures and empires throughout history since agricultural times have been brutally repressive. And even before then I imagine life as a hunter gatherer was brutish and short. Moreover the great population explosion in the latter half of the 20th century has not been met thus far with totalitarianism or mass starvation.

But yes I agree the signs are there that we are in overshoot, and combined with peak oil it means die off is inevitable. But it doesn't mean we all get to live like Thoreau. Mad Max is more like it.

OK, so let's just go on killing each other until we get to a population number that suits your liking.


So what do you think of this initiative??

What I do believe is that more than 50% of jobs, some of them these "genuine careers" I describe, are totally worthless to society. A lot of jobs seem to be people trying to sell stuff to other people.

Ah, yes. Much of commerce these days reminds me of the Pet Rock fad of the seventies.

Entrepreneurs extracting their wealth from the zero sum game without creating anything of real value.

I have been pushing this for over a year!!!!!!

I can't believe this is not obvious to such big brained types!!!!

Forget GDP it is useless.

Resource based economics.

Look into the Zeitgeist Movement even deeper.

Yes we have been brainwashed into cutting each others throats for survival when we could eliminate at LEAST 50 % of the bullshit fighting and live even better!

Now why Gail are you taking Engineer Physicist seriously when you ignored my attempts to introduce this alternative Movement??

The FIRE economy and the knock-on economic activity it supports makes up the majority of the developed world economy and is the largest factor of GDP measurement.

This was all about money making money or basically non-productive. This was possible because of huge efficiency gains, large net energy flows, and of course cheap labor.

But it's all over folks. Sure there is a little bit of this going on still for a variety of reasons but it is so locked up on a global level that its not even funny.

We are on the brink of Massive bankruptcies, foreclosures, and mass-layoffs.

JMG's ideas are quaint but about 25 to 30 years too late.

Eeyore, and when the dust settles from the bankruptcies, foreclosures, and layoffs, the points I've made will still be relevant. The unraveling of current economic structures isn't the end of the world, any more than the equivalent events in the 1930s were.

If you believe that the financially secure (what ever that means now) moms and pops of the world can absorb the 50% unemployed you are even more delusional than I thought.

Unless we create a way for 85+% of the population to be unemployed (based on the fact that we only really employ about 65% or 35% unemployed in the best of times) and still exist with some modicum of dignity we are toast.

The economics of the model assumes savings from eliminating child care. After kindergarden, the vast majority of child care expenses disappear anyway. Our kids went to an after school program until they were in 6th grade when they started school-based extracurricular activities. We still had summer camp expenses, but for 9 out of 12 months, we didn't and still don't have child care costs for our two school-aged children.

I don't know why I am commenting on this string given how bizzare I find the whole discusion, but I still cannot resist trying to place peices of the puzzle together, even if the peices were miscut from the factory!

Recent census data is showing what many in the press is reporting as a great "surprise". The number of women having children is going up in women over 35 and even 40, while the birthrate is falling in women below 30. The last of the boomer echo are still prosperous enough to have children, and their mentality is still locked into the belief that having children is, at the end of it all, what will give them satisfaction. The young women are not bought into this myth and are least able to afford children.

So we get the absolute perfect way to reduce childcare costs: Don't have children. Pretty easy when you think about it, compared to the convoluted attempts to re-engineer society discussed above. Once more, people do what is best for themselves in their perception of things...the oldest economic axiom on earth. And yet it astounds the demographers, who were priorly surprised by the rising number of elderly folks as the boomers aged (duh).


The attempts aren't convoluted; the ideas are very simple.

What, do you think, are better alternatives, with collapse staring us in the face?

"The attempts aren't convoluted; the ideas are very simple.

What, do you think, are better alternatives, with collapse staring us in the face?"

Sofistek, let us take your conclusion "with collapse staring us in the face" as true for the sake of this argument. Now we would say timing would mean a lot...collapse tomorrow, a few years out, two decades out? It may seem like I am nitpicking but the demographic make up will be completely different 10 or 20 years from now, and almost unrecognizably different by 2050...in the wealthy nations the birthrate of the native population WILL DROP.

Folks on TOD who have read my posts know I am not prone to prediction, I would much rather play the role of Socrates' 'gadfly' and try to get everyone to think harder (including myself most of all). The reason I can say with absolute assurance, with no doubt, with no equivocation that the birthrate among native born Americans, Japanese and Europeans will drop is simple: They will for the most part be too old to have babies. We are talking about a population (excluding immigrants) which will soon start losing population rapidly. It is already true in much of Europe, whether Catholic or Protestent, and the U.S. is not much off that pace. Most interesting is Japan. Due to Japan's resistance, at least culturally, to immigrants, the decline in population could be severe, a real population implosion (the Japanese of the postwar period do not have the resistance to widespread birth control one still finds in major communities of Europe and the U.S.)
For a fascinating discussion of this, see:

"Japan’s population is poised to peak at about 127.5 million people in the year 2005. From that point on, if the situation remains unchanged, it will begin a reverse track, contracting markedly to an estimated 105 million people by 2050."

The paper linked above is just one of many in which the implications for an economy with a declining population (virtually unknown in developed countries since the years of the black death in Europe) are laid out (not good if you use the normal statistical measures) and the solutions are laid out for Japan (get your birthrate up or import people, or both).

Euope's situation is somewhat different due to the immigration from Asia and Africa, but this has profound implications on the Europe of tomorrow, some of them very scary to the native born Europeans, and the threat of backlash is very real, but that is another topic for another time. The important thing we must however ask ourselves regarding Europe is this: Will the immigrants to Europe begin to think in the European fashion once they are away from the farm and reduce their birthrate. We know this has been the history of immigrants who have arrived in America...the Polish, German, Eastern European and even Irish who came from families of 7 or more children, but then themselves often had only one or two. Can we assume that trend will hold for immigrants to Europe? Only time will tell.

The United States, likewise is becoming a different nation in many ways, and there are some surprises. First, Latino birthrate:

The article above discusses how Latino teenagers who view college and career as the most important thing end up being parents instead. My point here is to discuss the fact that many of the babies born in the fastest growing population as a demographic group (Latinos) are born to teens by accident. That would make the girl under 19, and if her parents had her at a relatively early age, the grandmother would approximately early 40's. My point: There should be no shortage of childcare. Attempting to reconstruct the economy and the social order to solve a problem that essentially doesn't exist (lack of childcare) is to me convoluted logic, IF your goal was to reduce commuting and prevent lack of daycare for children.

The problem of lack of daycare affects a smaller and smaller percent of the population, and the one band it would seem to affect have a surplus of relatively young people (not elderly) to help take care of the children. But this begs a greater question, the same one the white native born southern states faced several years ago: Can an education program among young hispanic women bring down their birthrate? If so, the U.S. will go the route of Japan and soon have a falling population, with all that implies. I would not bet against it happening, given the relative success of the program in native born teens and the fact that young Hispanic women already value college and career as goals.

If not, we are still at only 2.1 (a hair above replacement level) now, and that will surely drop just due to aging. Those who are flogging the population issue in the developed countries are flogging a dead horse and preaching to the converted. Frankly, unless you can enforce your will on the developing and third world nations, your wasting our time discussing it. Can you enforce your will on the developing and third world countries? I wouldn't bet on it.

Oh, the commuting...how can one reply? Would we assume that it is going to be easier to attempt to restructure the American social order than it would be to simply move closer to where you work, use more trains and put the cars on a diet?

Just to be honest, this whole "get one of the couple back in the house and stop them from working" plan ( and most women know which gender will be expected to get back in the kitchen) reeks of someone who is trying to graft a social agenda onto the peak oil problem. This is becoming more and more of a problem as every group with some social, economic or political scheme up their sleeves tries to hitch it onto the resource issue. I think you have some cases of businesses trying to hide their theft behind resources issues, or "issues outside of our control" and will see more of it. Peak oil is now becoming a dog and pony show for every nitwit scheme proposed since the birth of industrialism, every gripe about industrialism, and every change made by it will be fixed by peak oil!! Yee haa, the woman back in the kitchen, cookin' up those big meals from local grown tasty ingredients, just like grandma did back on the farm!

Don't bet on it. A few days over a hot stove, (and try a woodstove in the summer if your really up for the experience, my granny's kitchen used to get so hot candles sitting in the corner of the room would begin running and leaning over from melting) and these women who were so glad to get out of a commute will be glad to get back behind the wheel and back to work, even if they have to drive a Citroen 2CV size "umbrella with a motor" to do it.

Attempting to adjust marriage relationships, household sizes, gender politics and the U.S. economic order (recall that the U.S. competes fiercely with nations who have no intent of losing half their best talent to the kitchen, and for no explainable reason whatsoever mind you) has to be the most Rube Goldberg contraption as a cure for a shortage of liquid fuel I have heard in some time.

Better alternative? TAKE THE DAMN FAT OUT OF THE CARS! Just get them back to 1960's weight for equal sized vehicles, you would be ASTOUNDED what it would do. Telecommuting. I assure you that it will have as much effect as the "park one car, quite the job" idea. Again, trains, especially for frieght. Re-adjust the tax structure to more warehousing and less JIT inventory control and get some of these trucks off the highway and back on rail and barges. These are just hints of some sane and sensible things to do before you go on a social engineering scheme. Any single of these ideas would be up and running and still giving results long after the "childcare crisis" has come and gone.


In the European Union, the population growth rate is estimated at +0.1%; i.e. not decreasing. In the US, it is estimated at just under 1%.

Collapse can happen slowly but as we are forced to shift from a debt based growth economy to one that is sustainable (or else collapse will accelerate), then increasing numbers of people will have to transfer to something like the domestic economy.

I bet you the U.S. doesn't even exist in any way similar to what it does come 2050. I'll either have a terminator robot as a servant or you'll be able to take a tour of the ruins of Los Angeles. It's one or the other.

Look at those nonsensical census projections... something like 440 million in the U.S. come 2050. Do you think a similar way of life will be possible with 440 million people in the U.S. with the resources available? I find it difficult for them to be credible. If any area becomes ethnically different, linguistically different, and culturally different there is no guarantee it will stay part of the same country. Take a look at the borders of most countries, they exist for a reason, they were not drawn arbitrarily.

I've little doubt that the population projections, under the assumption of BAU, will not pan out (I have doubts that they would even under BAU). I don't expect BAU for much beyond a decade, if that. Without that assumption, the predictions fail. However, even assuming BAU, many people appear to believe that UN population projections are actually an historical record, and that the "demographic transition" is a physical law. Neither, of course, is true. Relying on these things, in a BAU situation, is another sad story of humans' ability to avoid thinking or taking action.

I must agree with you on this, I have been discussing demographic predictions being inaccurate with Nick in another thread. I personally see no reason for the "transition" to continue. I am quite well off and personally plan to have well above the replacement rate for children.


Well, I suppose some couples have to have above the replacement rate, to average out those who don't. I can understand the desire to have big families again (with the problems facing us) but, unfortunately, it runs the risk of making the problem worse.

However, I suppose it's a reasonable assumption that societal collapse will happen (with a corresponding and significant die-back) and those survivors with large family groups might do better than those without.

and their mentality is still locked into the belief that having children is, at the end of it all, what will give them satisfaction.

Or it is a subconscious reaction to needing to be taken care of by the children when they are old................

That has been the way of our species up until very, very recently.

Maybe it is a natural reversion.

Or it could be that with voluntary birth control there is an exponential decrease in the proportion of women [and men although they don't get to choose] who can think further than 9 months ahead, so pop growth begins to take off....

You are very observant RC.

Essentially what you are saying is that Die off will eventually solve all our problems. Brilliant!

eeyores enigma,

Oh yes, there will be a die-off. But here is the news us boomers hate to hear: It will happen with or without peak oil. It will happen with or without global warming. It will happen without soil erosion, without the destruction of the rain forests, without the pollution of the sea, without a comet striking the earth.

We are going to see one of the biggest die offs in history because a bit over a half century ago our parents had the biggest birth off in history.

I cannot know what I am about to say for certain, simply because I cannot accurately time the events of peak oil and cannot know how they will play out economically or technically, but you can call this one Conner's conjecture:

If peak oil and peak energy do not get here very soon, the bigger emergency, the bigger driving force, the force that will drive all decisions will be about baby boomer aging, death, and how to dispose of the greatest stash of material goods in history. If peak oil does not materialize as a catastrophic event, the generation following us will live like the nobility of old on the largasse piled up by one of the most creative and sophisticated generations in world history. It will be such a time to be alive.


P.S. Oh, the fight for baby boomer wealth has already began with round 1 going to the financiers who know how to play this game for blood. That my friends is what the "financial crisis" was all about.


This post is very much related to what I call the dual problem. The problem most people give themselves is to earn enough money to live the way they want. The dual problem is to figure out how to live the way you want without money, so you don't have to earn any money.

I have been thinking about this problem for some time (in relation to the Ayres Warr model of economic growth and alternatives I would like to try). As the author points out, one of the biggest advantages to this tactic is lower taxes. Which brings me to another clear loser if large numbers of people adopt this solution: governments. If people can live happily without making money, they will pay fewer taxes, and governments receipts will decrease. It is my belief that peak oil will produce many sovereign debt crises, as more people bow out of the rat race and embrace a non monetized "household" economy. The problem might be more acute in places like Europe where taxes on fuel are high.

As one who is doing exactly that can I throw in 100% support. I'll go further. Given the nature of modern work, there is a serious case to be made that women are the ones who go out to earn the $$ and men who stay home and run the household economy.

I'm of the male persuasion BTW.

Fact is that I can learn to cook, bake, sew (OK, I haven't got there yet on the sewing, thank god my wife is a mad recreational seamstress) clean etc etc but we have one thing women don't have and that is muscle mass. That means we can also lift, carry, dig, hoist, shove and generally do all that butch stuff a lot longer and with less effort than most women.

Thus my garden is my gym (ring up $200 a month in savings there), our larder (ring up another few hundred a month) and, as JMG points out, all my work and its products are untaxed and nobody gets to capture a share of that work unless I choose to offer it to them.

I'm (relatively) fitter and stronger at 59 than I have ever been and I'm learning huge amounts of stuff pretty much every day so my mind, far from being stultified in a monoculture of endless, repetitive activity (and that applies to pretty much every job you will ever get) is constantly challenged and rewarded in agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry (hey, we have two chickens and two dogs OK?) small machinery maintenance, tool use and tool making (my soil sieve is very cool) and I have the highest satisfaction reading I've ever had.

Yes, its a solitary life right now, almost every house in the street is empty most of the day but I used to be a DJ so I'm used to being alone and talking to myself, thank god for the net BTW where I make contacts and learn almost everything I need to know.

The big problem is that in the past we assigned domestic work to women because their ability to hold down a job was regularly interrupted by pregnancy and childbirth. In fact they have nothing to do with each other, a rational society would allocate the work to those most suited to it, or at least not restrain those best suited from doing it.

Finally, I get a lot more respect when I can point out that we produce about 80% of the food we eat (we are vego so that's easier) and that our grand project is to be able to live in comfort and well being (figs poached in port, sesame biscuits with blue cheese and home made quince paste, whole egg pasta pomodoro with all but the flour coming from our own garden, accompanied by home made focaccia, hummus, pesto and sauerkraut) on $200 a week. In a pinch we could do it now, in a year or two we will do it as a matter of course.

Its hard work and demanding, but when our guests eat our food then get the message about how little we expect to pay for living this way, its worth it to see their faces.