If I Were a Billionaire...

If I was a billionaire, I wouldn’t believe what I’m about to write. Firstly, because my training, and especially my experience of getting richer in a growth based economy would have taught me that these ‘perfect storms’ when resource/financial bottlenecks supposedly loomed, historically worked out to be opportunities that spiked my digital wealth and incremental social power. Secondly, if I were a billionaire I wouldn’t believe what Im about to write because all my peers, advisors and friends would tell me that it's caca. And lastly I wouldn’t believe what Im about to write as the implications would be too threatening, at least on the surface, to comprehend let alone integrate into my world view. All the same, if I were a billionaire, based on my understanding of our particular juncture of history, likely on the verge of transitioning away from marker claims back to real capital, here is what I would do....

The main messages in this post are:

1) How we measure both wealth and status is likely to move away from financial marker capital back towards ‘real capital’, either gradually, or in disruptive fashion.

2) The amplitude available in social status, stretched during the terminus of the cheap energy/cheap credit digital marker era, is going to snap back, possibly significantly.

This has implications for all of us, but particularly for the very (financially) wealthy.


Most alive today think of wealth as how much money they have in their pockets, their bank accounts, their brokerage accounts, and their retirement accounts. Sure there is real estate, factories, gold and land as well. But it is a rare person that considers their skills, their relationships, their stuff and the ecosystems around them (human, social, built and natural capital respectively) as part of their 'net worth'.

I have alluded in posts in the past here that though energy/resource depletion lies at the heart of our current predicaments, the weakest link to future social stability is not oil decline or environmental externalities but the non-linear repercussions of currency and financial upheaval. Ive not posted the entirety of this analysis here mostly because I'm more interested in sharing broader ideas than details, at least on that topic, in this forum. But here is the general story.

In nature, access to high quality energy underpins everything. Biological organisms that maximize energy output/energy input (calories) at time T have advantages at time T+1 (and historically, conferred these advantages genetically at time T+X). In surplus situations, some energy can be 'stored' for later use. Relative to conspecifics, better energy access/harnessing/storage correlates with status - e.g. the weight/bulk of an elephant seal, or the antler mass on a stag confers both survival and ultimately mating advantages.

Humans too are biological organisms. Access to and control/use of energy correlates with status and social power. Energy of some form is required to create every good or product we have in our global or local economies (a fact that is still not widely recognized). Our modern institutional (and belief system) experiment allows for the 'storage' of surplus/below ground energy to occur in paper - mostly in electronic digits. Money becomes a claim on future labor, or things (basically energy). Most humans today have surplus resources far in excess of what they physically need. The average Americans physical caloric input requirements are met 100 times over with our daily subsidy of fossil sunlight.

As such, over time, money and its derivatives have become such a prevalent marker for both biophysical needs/wants and social power at time T, that culture and 80 years of largely uninterrupted growth has tricked our evolved wiring into accepting that digital money at Time T is a perfect substitute for energy and stuff at Time T +1. Furthermore, unlike in nature, our perceived relative status is not limited by how much we can eat, or how large of ornaments we can grow, but by the leverage available in the heretofore limitless marker assets. In effect, instead of the built in negative status feedbacks in nature (stags with horns TOO heavy, get stuck or fall over), our leveraged monetary culture engenders positive status feedbacks ($1 billion buys you much more social power than $1 million). But during this generation long smorgasbord, we have either forgotten or neglected the possibility that monetary markers at Time T, might not get us anything at all at Time T+1.

Graphic from IIER, Data from: U.S. Federal Reserve – Flow of Funds, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Cheap energy (as a % of total societal inputs) and its cultural storage vector (cheap money in the form of commercial/central banks creating loans and deposits simultaneously to meet credit demand in growing economy) created a non-linear social system that over time, departed from money being a realistic claim on future energy as it depended more and more on an increasing total money supply to service the debts of years prior. In the United States, we have grown our debt more than we grew our output (GDP) for each of the last 45 years. Think fast treadmill. In an era of overshoot there exist many elephants in the room (energy depletion, social stratification, environmental externalities), the biggest elephant is not that Quantitative easing is borrowing from the future by creating monetary claims out of nothing, but that our entire system has been using Quantitative Easing for over 40 years (not just since 2008) to enhance current consumption at a cost to the future.

Currently, the aggregation of ‘claims’ in the US requiring growth to service and pay off in the future is around $65-70 trillion vs $14 trillion in GDP - or around 500%. (stocks, bonds, corporate, municipal, state, private and corporate debt -including unfunded social security medicare the number jumps to over $110 trillion). Because of the inherent leverage in our monetary system, we can't stop growing lest the debt hounds snapping at our collective heels catch up to us. However, resources - currently their cost, and soon also their availability, now limit our aggregate system. When growth stalls each time we become resource/price constrained, more new credit will be attempted, increasingly by the government sector, accelerating the transfer of consumption from the future to the present and the periphery to the core, until it either physically can't continue, or more likely, becomes obvious to the major players it can't continue. People already are beginning to understand that debt is borrowing from the future - it is not a large leap to understanding that this dynamic applies to our monetary/credit/bank account system as well. This Wile E Coyote moment - the collective realization that there are more digits owned and promised than can or will ever be paid back will likely result in 80%, 90%, or even 100% of financial assets of all kinds to go poof. In my estimation this is a strong possibility in the coming decade and even potentially within five years.

Envy for status given environmental cues is a strong motivator. Increasing evidence in the fields of psychology and economics shows that above a minimum threshold of income/wealth, it one's relative wealth that matters, not absolute. In an analysis of more than 80,000 observations, the relative rank of an individual’s income predicted the individual’s general life satisfaction whereas absolute income and reference income had little to no effect. Sociological and physiological research shows decreasing returns to more absolute income/wealth. (Incidentally, in the 80 references in that peer-reviewed paper, not one was to biology or evolution). Furthermore, in a bizarre curse of neuroscience, our dopaminergic reward pathways activate as strongly when we ALMOST win or achieve something. So as long as someone is 'winning' ahead of us, those near the top may be driven even further to succeed in attaining culturally defined status markers. As such, even though, as indicated in the above Inglehart curve, well-being doesnt increase that much after a certain minimum threshold of GDP/wealth is achieved, that will not stop people, especially near the top, to continue to shoot towards the green circle.

For those who are wealthy/powerful the choices have always been about growing/preserving accumulated wealth via lateral shifts between various monetary marker assets - cash, bonds, stocks, commodities, etc. In a future where the traditional drivers of growth (energy/credit) are drying up , the conventional Capital Asset Pricing Model assumptions go out the window . Essentially opportunity no longer shuffles within the financial asset class, but moves outside the entire class itself to non-financial assets. Obviously one can't effectively transmute $1,000,000,000 into like amounts of social capital, skills, friends and stuff. Sure, some precious metals in the face of potential currency reform or nationalization make sense, but golds contribution to effective net worth is limited by 'non-precious metal inputs', like safes, friends, and a stable and functioning environment in which to transact with them. I.e. hoarding gold as a wealth/status preservation strategy is looking one step ahead - when thinking two or three steps is required.

The 'endowment effect', and loss aversion principles will make it very difficult for people with outsized means, the movers and shakers of our society, to just accept a lower relative social rank. One could argue that financial wealth is more of a burden in this environment, as excessive thought and effort will be made in this demographic to preserve financial markers at all costs, when the real paradigm is about transitioning from net worth back to self-worth. I hypothetically illustrate this in the above graphic. Beyond paper wealth levels of X, digital markers in the current environment actually will be a hindrance to well-being. A person at point Y (say, $5 million?), will be so locked in the old paradigm of measuring life success by digits they will adhere to that dying principle at a cost of new healthier options of social, human and built capital. Some few of the mega-wealthy may have enough (point Z) to maintain their wealth/influence going forward. But, as in Weimar Germany, the vast majority of wealthy will likely have it wiped out.

If I were a billionaire, my biggest strategy for adapting to a world of new formulas based on ecology and not economics, would be to accept the fact that the amplitude of social power engendered from markets without reins is going away. In some trajectories, there may even be social backlash against the very wealthy. I would try very hard to become 'unattached' to my accumulated digits as even if one disagrees with my percentages, an intelligent observer must acknowledge a non-zero possibility of a 'poof' event for financial assets. However, in addition to the psychological preparation of one day soon 'rejoining the pack', there are significant actions that billionaires can take to build important social and built capital in communities and regions all over the world. Who else can support efforts towards local/regional economies, the science and scaling behind import substitution models, which were shunned during the crusade towards efficiency and paper profits. Who else can initiate and support economic laboratories, experimenting outside the current paradigm on a scale necessary to impact society in a positive way. The risks posed to society from a globally interconnected system, where the average american farmer has something on order of 60 supply inputs, over half of which come from overseas is begging for new initiatives for systemic risk management.

In my life I have met maybe a dozen billionaires and I'm guessing very few have some knowledge as to what I speak (of course - look at them - they're the billionaires). But in the liminal space where paper wealth is losing its grip as a stable placeholder for status and power, new thinking and bold action is required. But new thinking and bold action by Joe Six Pack, however well intentioned, won't be overly impactful for post credit society at the scale required. We need to either lead by example from the top, or have efforts from the top preparing for contingencies that our conventional institutions will ignore. In effect, we are facing environmental and energy crises galore - but the most critical hurdle in the near future will be a reset of our currency and debt system. Peak Oil (and Peak Credit) will obviously impact prices, but their strongest impacts may manifest as supply chain breakdowns -not due to lack of energy -but disruption of basic goods from a fragile globally interconnected system. If we don't get this one right by preparing now, we probably won't have much of a chance to deal with the other long-term problems, where blueprints based on science of both supply and demand can be crafted and implemented. That echelon of society with surplus digital wealth, which will likely disappear anyways via gradual nationalization or currency reform, are in a unique spot to help.

Finally, if I was a billionaire I would trade it all in, for my current understanding of the world, my current relationships and friends, my current lifestyle. But I'm not, so I'm asking those who are to open their eyes to the broader situation and effect positive change.

Campfire questions

1) what would you do if you were a billionaire?

2) what would you recommend current billionaires do?

(Note: the difference, in aggregate, between the answers to 1 and 2 may explain a big part of our predicament)

(Edit - If you have read between the lines here, and have access to resources, please contact me as I'm in touch with people who are working on such 'economic insurance' physical plans)

I would establish bleeding-edge start-ups in the fields of renewables, genomics, software development, mathematics, social behaviour, economics, emergent systems and similar topics.

The coming world will be shaped by the future Richard Feynmans & Bill Gates out there.

We need to push the grasping, scheming, low IQ politicians and civil servants to one side.

The bankers etc are a little harder to deal with. We need money for economies to work out ... but the financial people should not have the God given right to snaffle a percentage of each & every dollar that passes their desks.

"but the financial people should not have the God given right to snaffle a percentage of each & every dollar that passes their desks."

Everybody deserves to be paid for their work, otherwise they wouldn't do it. Banks are the moderators of economic activity and they need to be exposed to both the risk and reward as the moderating mechanism on their own activities.

Personally, I think that if the banks needed taxpayers bailouts and gurantees, they should have had to put up collateral in the form of all their issued capital in the smae way they would impose that on consumers wanting to take out loans. If they didn't want to do that, no loans, bailouts or gurantees and if theat sends them to the wal, so be it. Bank liquidators shuld have the power to claw back profits from shareholders, executives and anyone found to have acted recklessly or fraudulently in the pursuit of banking profit growth at the expense of economic prudence.

The problem I see is interest, or growth as it is called. You can't grow beyond what you have capital to pay back. We have reached that point in our history where we only have so much new ores to mine, only so much land to live on, and a population that fills just about every nook and crany of the planet.

We can't grow our money past the amount of real world capital, and we are trying now to do that. The only way we got here is by having to pay interest on all those loans that were made by that thing we call banks.

I'd love to scrap the system we have now and start fresh with a new one.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

More specifically time based interest where the debt grows on paper regardless of whether there is new tangible capital being created that will have quality of life improvement effects for the greater good of all.
This has always been the problem.
The only relationship that makes sense is an equity share where the lender only wins if the borrower wins.
That keeps the currency tethered to the real world.

Time based interest AKA usury has been outlawed throughout history and will be again............will we learn this time???

Fresh and new.....................energy based currency a la M. King Hubbert.

And the compounding of said fantasy interest is beyond belief as far as fairness goes.

The whole interest bearing debt concept is a rigged scheme to further enrich the haves at the unbearable expense of everyone else.

Time to build guillotines.

"Time to build guillotines."

I would wager that, in this scenario, guilliotines, if built under the control of billionaires, would be strictly controlled so that they are not used in a distasteful way, such as beheadding billionaires.

It takes a special kind of bastard, to see the loss of the ability to feed more than 5% of the current world population, and the subsequent death of 95% of people alive, as nothing more than a chance to advance their ideology.

IF peak oil occurs, and oil goes without replacement, power will return to the ability to direct human violence, like in the middle ages, obviously. Society will NOT revert to any state of communism, in fact capitalism, as the only option, will harden to the point where losing deals might once again mean losing your life. Where even temporary job loss means death for you and your family. It will mean a return to the time when 99% of people worldwide are violently oppressed, out of pure necessity.

The only way to bring about communism, or even keep our current socialism going is to cancel out the real world, in other words, it takes finding a new power source with (near-) infinite capacity.

Any chance TOD readers can read up on a few historical events ? It's not billionaires that one should fear, it's crowds, ideologies. Just like in the times of Napoleon, WWI, WWII, ... the problem is large movements, and the pushing of failed ideologies (nearly always forms of socialism).

It is very typical for socialists, of course, to see massive numbers of deaths as a political opportunity, instead of something that must be prevented at all costs. What will happen, in reality, of course, is that socialists will destroy themselves, imploding whatever powerbase they now have by causing disasters and driving people into the hands of anyone offering protection. Into dictatorship.

Read. Up. On. History.

It is very typical for socialists, of course, to see massive numbers of deaths as a political opportunity, instead of something that must be prevented at all costs. What will happen, in reality, of course, is that socialists will destroy themselves, imploding whatever powerbase they now have by causing disasters and driving people into the hands of anyone offering protection. Into dictatorship.

and the pushing of failed ideologies (nearly always forms of socialism).
Read. Up. On. History.

Rather than using an emotionally and typically poorly defined word (any one of the -isms class) can you bother to define this "socialism" thing?

It is very typical for socialists, of course, to see massive numbers of deaths as a political opportunity, instead of something that must be prevented at all costs.

For your statement here to be true, then the people who wrote the PNAC document calling for a new Pearl Harbor - they'd have to be socialists then.

Its the only conclusion, if one "READ. UP. ON. HISTORY." as you've asked.

Unless, well, you are not only wrong but you are using emotionally loaded words and attempting to make a frame about a word with poor working definitions.

If you'd like to come back and actually DEFINE what a "socialist" is, great. But then once you do, I'd expect someone can continue to show your position is still wrong as 'causing death for political gain' isn't just a "trick" of the "socialists".

There is nothing wrong with being a socialist. Two of my favorite economists, Heilbroner and Thurow are pure socialists--but also seen as being in the mainstream of economic thought.

It turns out that economists are even more needed in socialistic economies than they are in modern welfare-market economies such as the U.S.

There used to be, and probably still are, some hundreds of Ph.D. economists in the U.S. who are out-and-out socialists.

And of course, Orwell was a socialist, with a lower-case first "s".

There is nothing wrong with being a socialist.

Yuppers. Communism has its high points - look at the 10 planks of the manifesto and note how most are in the good old US of A leading a demonstration on how some are a good idea. But its hard to have a productive conversation on a topic when "we" are not all using the same definition for words.


If "we" are looking for a non productive conversation, how about if I take comments about government needing to promote business compare it to Mussolini's definition of Fascism?

It seems that the problem with ANY philosphical system is twofold.

First: the originator, in order to make the system palatable to others, must pre-suppose that a person or group is fundamentally good (questionable, at best.)

Second: this person or group, upon taking or receiving power, seems to immediately work to make supposition #1 wrong.

Karl Marx's supposition was that man has hands because he is a worker. A Western Civilization professor I had made the statement that man has hands, instead, because "...he is a PLAYBOY."

If one considers the definition of a socialist as "one who looks to the greatest good of society as a whole", then heck, yes, sign me up! If, instead, the concept is more "take by force from those that worked for what they have to give to those who don't want to work" then no, thanks. Especially when the takers want their cut first (e.g. Orwell's pigs.)

After reading all the way through the postings for this story and others, I do get the sense that most people on here would subscribe to the first definition.

I don't think many people understand the econophysics origins of income disparity, let alone the intersection this has with personal satisfaction.
Yakovenko is one of the leading researchers on this topic:
"Statistical mechanics approach to the probability distribution of money"
Yakovenko quotes Pink Floyd “Money, it’s a gas.”

Income disparity is not like maintaining a heartbeat, where there is a somewhat narrow range of allowable rates. A population can sustain a wide range of incomes because those are all allowed states of behavior. Does it even matter that there are multi-billionaires? Does it matter that there are super-giant oil reservoirs? This is all how entropy plays out.

I know this is not the campfire question, but I consider this angle much more interesting to ponder.

Excellent comment.

Too many posters view PO, finance, politics etc as problems with binary solutions.

In reality the world is a BIG place which can allow all sorts of irrational local maxima & minima.

Additionally the whole 'worldscape' is a fluid, flexible and emergent environment.

I can imagine a future world of desolation, plaque, war, starvation ... yet with many universities, top hospitals and power-stations ... but only for a very small percentage of the population.

I can imagine a future world of desolation, plaque, war, starvation ... yet with many universities, top hospitals and power-stations ... but only for a very small percentage of the population.

A future world?

well said.

Define future? A few of decades at most probably. Decline has never been pretty

I always try to combat plaque by brushing my teeth every now and then. Not sure how to stop war, however; "stupid" seems to have a life of its own and is very robust.

Yeah, see, but zombies don't brush! So, you know, lots of plaque!

Or maybe Metameme is a dentist, and all that plaque is part of the miserable future. He did leave dental offices out of his list of services for the rich.

Seems like we've already accomplished that.

Let's move beyond the theoretical to the moral, eh?

In the income disparity rank histogram there is an interesting inflection point kink at the upper end of the curve. It isn't a lot but it seems to move with the stock market returns for that year. The thinking is that this is associated with compounded investment growth (i.e. interest, dividend, reinvested, etc).

The rest of the curve is associated with almost a learning curve type of growth model where you can gain income by working harder but with diminishing returns. Yet after a certain amount of accrued income, this money goes to investment and can then compound interest and you no longer have to work as hard to get that extra income. The effect is to bend the disparity curve a bit more horizontal (see the region labelled Pareto in the graph above). This only extends for as long as a new learning curve settles in with diminishing returns on extra income.

Of course, this only affects a small segment of the population, but it is exactly the same segment of the population that all the nasty tax cut discussion is centered around -- the 1% of the upper earners. During good times, like the 1990's, this went up to the 2 to 3% level.

I expect a more electrified society with better schools but fewer universities and tougher competition for hard and high value jobs. I expect good hospital care for everybody but restrictions on advanced medicine for the very old and the development of new advanced medicine is likely to slow down if major economies collapse and slows down the flow of new imported knowledge.


As always, I agree with your comment. I am about to outline a novella based on Alan Drake's rail proposals, which I think are the best chance for the U.S. to accommodate to the decreasing availability of fossil fuels.

I would like to see a major increase in nuclear generation of electricity in the U.S. Unfortunately, there are strict political limits to the expansion of nuclear energy in the U.S.

I think politics is much better in Sweden than in the U.S. I have considered emigrating to Sweden, but I have children and grandchildren in Minnesota.

Hi, Don. Hows that snow and ice thing workin' out for ya?

I am Minnesota tough. Have most excellent snow/ice walking boots from L.L. Bean. Winter keeps the riff-raff out.

I think politics is much better in Sweden than in the U.S. I have considered emigrating to Sweden, but I have children and grandchildren in Minnesota.

Post a note if you make up your mind and we'll help out. Although I doubt fleeing one failing state to another one who will also fail, maybe just a bit later, may be of much long term value.

Keep up the good work!

The problem with entropy, is that we only see its full results only after a billion years or so. Right now, on earth in our little time window, we only see the disorganization of a few parts of the puzzle, we call life on earth.

If a Star can take Hydrogen and spin it around and form Oxygen in a few dozen smashups gaining electrons and other building blocks of an atom. Then why can't we do it here on earth?

Of course as a Science Fiction author, I see a lot of things that humans could do, that they can't do. As I said in my own post, I'd be putting some of my billion toward more research in things that humans as of yet don't know about, and I can see that we'd benefit from knowing them.

Unless you want to say that entropy is that we can't know if there is a God or not. Also a neat book title given the recent talk about science and god in the world. We are uncertain about a lot of things, mostly these days about whether we'll be around as a species in 2,000 years.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Entropy has many manifestations. That is one I don't go near.

Does it even matter that there are multi-billionaires? Does it matter that there are super-giant oil reservoirs?

From my perspective and certainly billionaires the answer is yes. To any entity that can understand the question, the answer must be, "Yes, it matters." (Which is not to say how it matters.)

When a person understands words, those words carry meaning. In so doing they carry emotional content. Language was an overlay on the brain of a evolving primate who was driven successfully through life using evolved emotions. Language didn't supplant emotions it was pasted on top. Words activate those ancient emotions. So whether or not something matters is all about the emotions which are created when that thing, or a string of words which point to that thing, is considered by a human.

Give the power of speech to several tons of rock from the cretaceous period and the answer would not be "no" but "huh?" Any answer other than "huh?" means the question has been understood. If it were not understood the human has a feeling which we identify as something like bewilderment.

You might get a rock like "huh?" from a remote tribesman on Borneo. Not that such tribesman is rock like, but he wouldn't understand the question and he would feel he didn't understand it.

So to anyone who understands the question - yes it matters. It matters because they have emotions concerning these things.

Of course their emotions are products of evolved neural nets that product molecules which when received by other evolved neural nets generate a perception of emotional sensations. These sensations drive us through life. What that sensation might be and how strongly it is felt, is a product of DNA and environment (past and present). So yes, of course the billionaires, the pools of oil, rocks from the cretaceous, you and I are all part of the great unwinding of a highly organized energetic state.

Some people may be able largely to suspend sensation as they consider this group of words which do not involve themselves. If you can suspend feelings about the question, "Do billionaires matter?" You are not a billionaire. When we think about ourselves, and our group, it is very difficult - if not impossible - to suspend our favorable self-referential emotions. And if we can suspend that emotion about ourselves we can't hold that suspension for long. Most of the time, healthy people feel good about themselves and their group. And that is how Nate Hagens can come to write thus:

"Finally, if I was a billionaire I would trade it all in, for my current understanding of the world, my current relationships and friends, my current lifestyle..."

Nate feels good about himself and his current position. He can only imagine (and imagine incompletely) about being a billionaire. Nate has never been there. He has never, as a billionaire, contemplated giving away billions. And until he becomes a billionaire he can't ever think as one. The best he can do is to think as Nate thinks a billionaire might think.

For one thing, he doesn't credit the billionaire with his (Nate's) current state of knowledge, friends, etc. Nate contemplates the current state of the billionaire as being generally worse than and at best no better than equal to his own state. Otherwise he wouldn't consider the trade.
When Nate tries to think about anything he uses his own neurons (his only neurons) which don't actually provide the emotions which would be produced by a real satisfied billionaire faced with the prospect of such a change.

Billionaires (and me and you) think with a structure which has developed over a lifetime. That structure didn't appear in an instant and it doesn't disappear in an instant when a new thought arises. It takes time to build a new structure to produce different neural nets which produce different feelings. That's why it takes time for people to changing their positions - their brains don't actually have equipment to destroy quickly the structure built over a lifetime; there are no neural wrecking balls and no neural bulldozers. New neuronal structure must be built which change molecular balances before people "change their minds."

Consequent to all this, people (including me and you) don't really know how they are going to act in a novel situation until they arrive at the spot and moment.

I'd bet Nate would make some adjustment to his prognostication (which was made while he understood that all of us are watching) if he were to actually find himself in the situation he would have different neural structures than now. If he then insisted on trading billions away and abandonment the attendant high status he would represent a historical rarity. Unless Nate has a history of such actions, I wouldn't bet on his prognostication coming true.

The underlying dominant feeling (produced at molecular level) perceived by Nate as he makes his prognostication is (when translated by my language providing neural nets) “I like me. I like what I think and I am satisfied with what I have. Further I like me more than an imagined person who is not like me.”

It is a very human thing to think.

That said, none of this is meant to detract even a little bit from the quality of Nate's analysis which came before.

Nate feels good about himself and his current position. He can only imagine (and imagine incompletely) about being a billionaire. Nate has never been there. He has never, as a billionaire, contemplated giving away billions. And until he becomes a billionaire he can't ever think as one. The best he can do is to think as Nate thinks a billionaire might think.

If the Billions are "generational" money, their is a mindset surrounding wealth and odds are you won't be reading things like TOD or even thinking about the things being mentioned in this keypost comment section. Growing up you'd be sent to places like Exeter then onto Yale/Harvard.

Only a couple of posts have really mentioned this and most of them are treating the billionare status as a gift or some kind of instant status. Instant wealth - well that leads to its own troubles if one looks at the big lottery winners.

Oh and hey - if the US of A hyperinflates "we" may all have a shot at being billionairs.

Besides the three typos, you say this: "you and I are all part of the great unwinding of a highly organized energetic state." I hope you're referring to the heat death of the universe, because we are, for the foreseeable future, in the energetic system of the nuclear engine we call the sun, and there's lots of energy to do lots more things, even at the population level we have.

You also seem to think minds are stable. You may not be familiar with psychedelics.

You also indicate that we cannot significantly put ourselves in the minds of others, regardless of experience or training. Are you without mirror neurons?

I don't mind doom and gloom, but keep it honest, eh?

Nitpick: Reins, not reigns.


One thought I have is relative to the estate tax system. If I were a billionaire, I would seek to change our estate tax law that seeks to turn over large parts of wealth to the state upon death. I would strike it down because the future need will not be for the government to capture our assets and break down the fiefdoms of the wealthy, it will be for us to develop a society that does not depend on growth and thus will depend on maintenance of a family’s wealth. One way that a future society could avoid the need for each new generation to seek growth would be for the new generation to be provided with the assets of the past generation. In this manner, the father could pass the family business to the kids and the kids in turn would care for the father.

In other words, return the society to the family based social system where each generation would only expect to have the assets that were owned by the family when they were born. Since this would in effect mean the destruction of the mobility between classes, a new form of achievement would have to be realized where a family would succeed because they did more with what they have rather than they acquired more.

Since politics is the art of the possible, it should be within the ability of todays wealthy to construct the framework for a future that does not depend on growth. No more would a family have 10 – 12 children simply to enrich the family and provide for the parent’s old age pension. In an era of no growth, families will repopulate themselves, and not having to earn enough to mitigate the government’s estate tax would be a good start towards eliminating the need for each generation to grow itself into enough wealth to take care of their needs.

No more would an entrepreneur seek to enrich him/her self with the proceeds of invention and determination. These admirable aspects of our current economy would need to change because of the severe need to access large amounts of scarce resources. Of course some invention should survive where it returns more resources than it uses up. A society based on non-growth should still seek better solar panels and improved recycling, and should reward these industries appropriately. Things such as moving towards a society based on electrification rather than diesel for shipment and agriculture would be rewarded. But this all starts with the principle that once wealth is accumulated, it should stay with the family that originally did the accumulation.

"No more would an entrepreneur seek to enrich him/her self with the proceeds of invention and determination."

I think it is human nature to invent new and ingenious things. To use you own example, moving towards a more electrified society is going to require a lot of invention and determination to see that clever ideas are implemented rather than just left to gather dust. If there is no market for such inventions thenj ther will be no reward. But that won't stop people from trying.

"But this all starts with the principle that once wealth is accumulated, it should stay with the family that originally did the accumulation."

But I think that locked-up wealth is the problem, or one problem at least. Right now, most wealth is locked up, at least in America. Otherwise the rich-poor gap would not be anywhere near the size it is now. Wealth should not be sat on, it should be used to help others, and that of course means that inevitably at least some wealth must move away from the family that accumulated it and into the hands of others. In a no-growth system this is even clearer: in such a system, the total amount of wealth is stable. Thus for someone to gain wealth, someone else must lose it (simple math: if X + Y is constant, then if we move X by x, Y must move by -x.). This essentially makes all wealth (or actually, all positive deviation from the average wealth level), at least, a sort of "moral" debt that must/can/should be repaid in some way (though perhaps only if said deviation is significant.). Though, in the present system this still happens, it is just to a lesser extent (relatively speaking for the system in question).

And I don't see why we should reduce inventions, for that is part of what makes human beings just that, is their capability to do so. At least not "peaceful" inventions (e.g. if someone is using their inventive power to make ever more gruesome and deadly weapons, then something's wrong there.). I think it's more how we use inventions that would matter. Like the mechanical engine: one of the things at the heart of our energy problem. It itself was not bad to invent -- it is what we did with it that screwed us up. We decided to make everything so hopelessly dependent upon it without thinking of the consequences. If we were smart and not greedy, then we could have used it in a much better fashion. It was our failure to moderate its application that was the problem. We went overboard with it -- way, way overboard. Moderation in everything is desirable -- if anything is allowed to escape from its bounds, it will prove to be a source of evil. This is just another proof of that.

You typify the actual entitlement mentality in America.

How are my grandchildren entitled to my bounty, any more than any other children? I understand wanting to keep as much as possible for yourself while you are alive... and it is apparent that your savings and industry should benefit your surviving spouse and support your children until they are grown. Once that happens, how exactly do you justify hoarding all of the wealth into just a few hands. No one needs billions to support themselves and their children. Better if at death a tax should be assessed on wealth that is the main, or only, tax. That way I, and my children, are able to save a bit also.

Greedy, unthinking people have destroyed many economies. Spain once had all the gold... they hoarded it. Check out Spain today... America tomorrow?


ps: the already enormous benefit of position, contacts, and education available to the children of the wealthy should be enough to satisfy them. And, as far as family businesses and farms, let the kids pay the tax over time (at interest). No money down. Just pay for it... like I would have to do if I wanted to buy the business. If the tax is anything less than 100% of value (last time I noticed, estate taxes were less than 50%) the kids are getting a real break there as well. It might make capitalism a bit more democratic

I'm not sure if Dick Smith is a billionaire but he is not short of a quid.I think he is one of the few of the wealthy who "gets it" to some extent.
In case you don't know Dick is Australian and he probably has a Wiki page so look him up.

As a billionaire would I invest in new real capital assets in stable democracies with a long track record of rule by law and respect for private property and especially those that already has an agenda for handling resource issues.

I would look for buisiness areas that are productive and has a strong political support or are underdeveloped. For Sweden are good candidates all kinds of electricity production, forest biomass refining and production of goods that needs lots of electricity and support from a stable and advanced society. An example of a business area that could be developed further is building and construction of houses and infrastructure where the competition is low.

And there are also opportunities when old businesses change and leaves old know-how, workforces and plants ready for new uses. I know of one such opportunity in a neighbouring town where a nearly completed idea for energy production could come to fruitation and yield a long term export business that will be productive during a long post peak oil era.

It is also easy to move to Sweden to invest or work here, our borders are open for entrepreneurs and ordinary workers.

If I had 100 billion dollars I would put every cent into Alan Drake's rail proposals.

They are good, especialy since the ideas aleady are well proven in other countries.

Note that one of our richest multibillionaires, Warren Buffett, has already bought a major railroad. He has a knack for visulizing the future that few other men have ever had. Plus, he lives frugally and is a nice guy. And when he dies, something like 99.9% of his assets go to charities, including several billions to population control agencies.

I wish we had a hundred multibillionaires like Warren Buffett, rather than just the one.

Not everyone is pleased about the contribution of Billionaires to population control.

Of course the Gates Foundation also works to "save lives in poor counties"

coal transport?

Primarily coal. But Buffett sees rail as a growth industry for the future. He is a wise old man.

Moving coal accounted for ¼ of BNSF's revenue through Q3 of 2009

BNSF spent $2 billion upgrading the 2,217 mile Trans-con, LA to Chicago. Double track now all but 30 miles of the 2,217. Now the busiest container rail line in the world (Trans-Siberian #2). They offer (for a premium fee) 70 mph express service, with most express trains arriving within an hour of schedule.

The % of coal and grain ton-miles on BNSF is much more than 25% (a bit over half from memory), but not the revenue.

Best Hopes for More,


If I were a billionaire, I would buy all of Berkshire County and all of adjacent Franklin County in Massachusetts, and retrofit the entire area as a network of small peak oil-prepared towns.


What's that?

Aw ... the alarm clock.

I don' think its so out there as to be labeled 'a dream', but things like that will probably happen only we're right in the thick of it - not before. And even if one buys the land with 'intent' to reregionalize supply chains for the most important goods, there still needs to be science/scaling/plans of how to do this in case overseas import parts are unavailable etc. So - its going to be very hard to do, but certainly not impossible. And remember two important things:
1)when/if monetary system goes poof, either through nationalization or market forced jubilee, we still have access to same energy/resources/stuff the very next day and
2)we have plenty of natural resources/energy for a very long time- just not enough to support this system of claims and aspirations.

Of course Richard Rainwater, worth about $2.5 billion in 2005 according to Fortune Magazine, felt compelled to warn anyone who would listen in this 2005 interview:

The Rainwater Prophecy:


His instincts tell him that another enormous moneymaking opportunity is about to present itself, what he calls a "slow pitch down the middle." But, at 61, wealthier and happier than ever before, Rainwater finds himself reacting differently this time. He's focused more on staying rich than on getting richer. But there's something else too: a sort of billionaire-style civic duty he feels to get a conversation started. Why couldn't energy prices skyrocket, with grave repercussions, not just economic but political? As industry analysts debate whether the world's oil production is destined to decline, the prospect makes him itchy.

"This is a nonrecurring event," he says. "The 100-year flood in Houston real estate was one, the ability to buy oil and gas really cheap was another, and now there's the opportunity to do something based on a shortage of natural resources. Can you make money? Well, yeah. One way is to just stay long domestic oil. But there may be something more important than making money. This is the first scenario I've seen where I question the survivability of mankind. I don't want the world to wake up one day and say, 'How come some doofus billionaire in Texas made all this money by being aware of this, and why didn't someone tell us?'"

warning about peak oil is different than preparing for dislocations of energy/goods due to currency reform. We still have to address peak oil (e.g. less and/or more expensive energy) aspects if the currency hoop is navigated.
But yes - I wonder what he is doing, if anything towards local import substitution scaling, etc. Haven't heard much about him of late.

Btw - you don't have his email by any chance? I am working with some organizations that could certainly use his help..

In a couple of discussion that I had with him, he indicated that he was seeking less publicity, not more. My take on the Fortune article was that he was basically integrating himself into small town life in the Carolinas.

I've got his mailing address (or I used to have it, I just moved and I am still trying to find stuff). If I can track it down, I'll shoot it to you.

Previously, Rainwater seems to be just another opportunist guy who has taken a very big 'prize' in our system, though he seems a more thoughtful one these days. Perhaps one of his 'thought' targets could be to help the much larger number of 'little guys', many with diverse and needed talents and skill, figure a way to prevent runaway oligarch consolidation, and subsequent trumping of useful science? This tendency is obvious in the former Soviet Union, and I came across rampant small-town versions when I was working in the Balkans, especially after 1997. As one young chap described it; "a pirate country". As well as the more obvious drug and gun transit / supply trade, the essential (especially for relatively impoverished countries) generic versions of pesticides and medications can move from 'legit' into oligarch ownership and serious political and if it suits, violent coercion.

Perhaps one of his 'thought' targets could be to help the much larger number of 'little guys', many with diverse and needed talents and skill, figure a way to prevent runaway oligarch consolidation, and subsequent trumping of useful science?

For a minute there, I thought you were about to say something about the Koch brothers and climate science.

You're asking me? Well, I'm an old lady with not much of a future... and not one of the intellectual giants here ... hmm, I'd set up a sole proprietorship to build as much alternative infrastructure as possible in advance of petrochemical failure, -- energy conservation, passive solar, structural retrofit, white roofs, decentralized grids for solar thermal, solar parking lots, roads, and rights-of-way, wind, wave, tide, and geothermal, localized labor-intensive agriculture, electrified transport with an emphasis on rail-and-sail. All profits to be plowed back into R&D. Working around the constipation known as politics to the extent possible. Reserve about ten thousand for each of the grandkids, just to say I did, and not to over-capitalize their expectations in life. And then keep doing what I'm doing now. See under localized labor-intensive agriculture (I don't know anyone happier than I am as it is).

Cool sites that you have linked in your profile.

Some of my billion dollars would be going toward extending your successes with your Stony Run farm, to other people who could learn from folks that lived sustainable/ near sustainable lifestyles.

Thanks for posting your story online.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

If I was a billionaire, I would want to communicate openly about what appears to be obvious. Perhaps one day soon enough the scientific community will overcome the power of a deafening silence that has kept certain evidence of human population dynamics hidden from us for nearly a decade.

Many top-rank experts have been kind enough to make Russell Hopfenberg's and David Pimentel's work on human population dynamics available on their websites, but this science does not receive the attention it deserves, I believe. The research is presented without comment and treated as if it is not worthy of consideration. Here we are nearing the end of the year 2010 and no discussions, either inside or outside science, adequately focus upon recent research of human population dynamics. This scientific evidence appears to have profound implications for the future of life on Earth because it makes visible the proverbial 'elephant in the living room' of the planetary home we inhabit.

Who is carefully examining and sensibly reporting findings on the taboo subject of human population dynamics now here? Where are the discussions of this topic to be found? In professional societies dedicated to the science of human population numbers? In first rate specialty journals regarding population biology, human ecology and demography? Can you or any other person on this email kindly point to examples where human population dynamics has been discussed? How on Earth do we address and overcome human-driven challenges, the nature and existence of which we refuse to acknowledge as well as willfully deny?

Having just read some of Hopfenberg and Pimentel's work, if I were a billionaire I would buy up a substantial amount of marginal agricultural land in the US and let it sit idle (then hunker down in my well-appointed doomstead)...

I think you've got it wrong... Buy substantial amounts of high-productivity farmland, and convert it all to non-food agricultural production. Biofuels, fiber, bio-plastics, tree farms, etc.

My conclusion based on what I've read of Hopfenberg and Pimentel's work about population being directly linked to food is that we MUST get as much of the world as possible into the demographic transition (DT) stage 4 as soon as possible, and this means a population upsurge to about 10 billion. If that cannot be done, then anyone serious about sustainability for the planet MUST advocate FUEL over FOOD should there ever be a conflict. Those concerned about helping starving children should either take personal responsibility and adopt those children in a DT state 4 economy, or teach the children how to grown their own food with local resources.

What I'm not so clear on, and something that as far as I can tell that Hopfenberg and Pimentel miss is the economic drivers. Right now food is significantly more economically valuable than fuel, therefore agriculture is heavily slanted towards food production. If fuel becomes more expensive, and food even cheaper, what happens to food availability in the DT state 1-3 populations? Does the cheap food migrate to the people that need it? This seems straightforward, buy my intuition is that this is wrong. I suspect what would happen is that it would become apparent that people are starving for lack of fuel, as we have piles of food rotting in fuel-rich regions, but nobody is willing to pay the for the more expensive fuel to transport it to the people that need it.

From the agriculture side though, that as soon as fuel is more expensive, agriculture will produce it in preference to food, and this will inherently self-limit the world population one way or another.

we MUST get as much of the world as possible into the demographic transition (DT) stage 4 as soon as possible, and this means a population upsurge to about 10 billion

...at the point where the disease and the remedy are indistinguishable, I would look for another way out. I haven't read enough to have any particularly useful ideas, but is the demographic transition obligatory? It seems to me Hopfenburg implies it is not, but rather that it is a symptom of a disturbed system. Opting out of such a system is often simply a matter of perspective, and perspectives can shift radically when it is to the advantage of those involved.

Dear daxr,

I do want to speak for Hopfenberg, but I believe he would say that the demographic transition theory is known to be descriptive not predictive; that it incomplete in its present format. For example, how on Earth can Stage I of the Demographic Transtion begin at the point where birth rates and death rates are HIGH. That is not possible in the world we inhabit. For thousands upon thousands of years prior to the past several hundred years, everyone I respect can see and agree that birth rates and death rates were LOW in the human community. According to the Demographic Transition Theory somehow, magically I suppose, birth rates and death rates started a the HIGH POINT. That is not possible. There must be stages prior to Stage I during which the human population goes from LOW BIRTH RATES and LOW DEATH RATES to the HIGH BIRTH RATES and HIGH DEATH RATES in Stage I.

Now let's look at Stage 4, supposedly the last stage. This cannot actually be the last stage, given biophysical reality, including the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Where are the resources to come from that can conceivably support 10 billion human beings overconsuming, overproducing and, until some mythical moment extolling the ending of Stage 4, overpopulating the noticeably finite resources and evidently frangible ecology in the planetary home we inhabit.

daxr, is there one shred of scientific evidence that explains how the human population benignly crests in the middle of Century XXI? I can find none!

That this preternatural theory, one that happens to be politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerable and culturally prescribed, has been widely shared and consensually validated for the past 65 years as if it represented science, let alone the best available science, and allowed to stand without adequate review and examination during my entire lifetime appears to me as a catastrophic failure on the part of knowledgeable experts in fields of inquiry related to subject of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth.



Dear daxr, Fred Magyar, Nate Hagens, Gail the Actuary and friends all,

The Theory of the Demographic Transition reminds me more of attractive religious dogma than a product of scientific inquiry. Where is the healthy skepticism, the critical analysis, the advanced thinking associated with this theory? For way too long, it has been erroneously accepted lock, stock and barrel as if it was an adequate product of scientific investigation and then misused as a predictor of things to come in the middle of Century XXI.

Given what is occurring in our time, how on Earth do human population numbers benignly 'crest' at 9 to 10 billion people a mere four decades from now? What do you suppose billions of fertile young people, who are expected to be capable of reproducing in the middle of this century, will be doing with their sexual instincts and drives other than what human beings have been doing during the past several thousand years?

Please, kindly take a moment to explain what you expect will occur that results in the widely shared and consensually validated projection indicating the automatic stabilization of absolute population numbers of the human species on Earth in the year 2050, given the fully anticipated young age distribution of a global population of 9 to 10 billion people at that time.



Most of it has already happened. Fertility rates have dropped all over the world, and now the population growth is mostly from the population pyramid becoming a rectangle (or even an inverted pyramid) as the population ages. Look at Brazil: .

The population is still growing and will keep growing for another three decades, but you can already see the population decline that will start soon thereafter.

If I Were a Billionaire:

If I were a billionaire
I'd spend it the mornin'
I'd spend it in the evenin'
All over this land
I'd spend it on derivatives
I'd spend it on seeedeeohs
I'd spend it on lying to
My Brothers and my Sisters
Aaaaall over this ..............

....sorry, Nate....someone said campfire.

Good to have you back. Thanks!

Nate, eloquent, punctuated, insightful and thought provoking. How to respond? One observation is that you do not as yet have any Sasquatch cubs, I have 2, and one came home from university out of the blue this weekend, which was nice, bearing two movies. The first was Michael Moore's "Capitalism: a love story" - i don't really like his style, but one point he made was changes that Reagan made to US system, mimicked by Thatcher over here - and I wonder how these link to the change in gradient in your first chart where the relationship between work and debt diverge? As already said i don't really like Michael Moore - so don't waste your money on this.

The second movie was an art house classic I'd never heard of called "The Tree with wooden Clogs". Apparently al Pacino's favorite movie. This is a 3+ hours masterpiece that die hard Oil Drum / Camp Fire readers should love (Italian with english sub-titles). There are so many thought provoking angles to this movie I don't know where to begin.

And so to get back on topic before I get banned:-)

I'll skip over question 1 since if I were a billionaire I'd feel tempted to go live on an island;-) (but not Britain:-( Question 2 is more interesting.

Philanthropy is one of the traditional outlets of the super wealthy, so what causes should the super wealthy support? I'm relatively sure that supporting strategies to sustain or increase global population are a bad idea long term - though they may win short term popular support. I'm rather pre-occupied right now with a concept I've developed called wrong thinking (maybe someone else has already developed this concept) where global population and governments seem to be carried along on a course of action based upon a groundswell of evidence for which actual evidence is lacking in the scientific literature if it is read critically. Increasingly, in the UK at least, government funded research programs are top down - somewhat contravening academic freedoms. So if I were a billionaire I'd be funding research in universities, still subject to peer review, that by passed the potential biases that now seem to exist in university research funding.

But of course any billionaire who waved $50 million at a university would likely immediately corrupt it.

Solution 2 is to genetically engineer greed out of the human race.

One thing might lead to another, Greed might be tied to genes of survival and we could in our seeming need to get rid of greed, do ourselves in.

DNA is so complex that, though we know a lot about it right now, we would be well advised to know a lot more about how we are put together before we go tamporing with our genetic structure too much.

Learn more before we start playing Monsanto on the human genome. I don't think it is right for anyone to copyright or patent genes, or organisms. They should be part of the collective commons. Anything else will make it so that one company or set of like minded companies will be greedy and want to rule the world in such a way as to do us all in, or control us all. Not something I look forward too, nor should anyone else. And while you have the power to do so, this should be something to reverse.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.


That Slavoj Zizek guy is always good for a laugh.


If I were a billionaire, I'd buy the Presidency, and a majority of seats in the Senate and House, nationalize the banks, and take the ship of state in a whole new direction. Is a billion enough?

I would use it to form an underground insurgency to chip away at the predatory capitalism system that is enslaving billions, starving billions more and destroying the biosphere.

I think I will call it "The Base".

Oh! Wait a minute...didn't someone already do that?

Just kidding. I'm sure we can prosper our way to a better world.


Nate, I forgot the second strand of my thinking which was history. When I was at skool, i thought history was a waste of time - boring. But in fact it has much to teach us. From the Norman conquests of England, the French revolution, the Highland Clearances of Scotland, the settling and conquest of the new world, the Second world war, the first Iraq war and the list goes on - what were the underlying causes? How were billions made and lost? And in Europe, which conspicuous billionaires managed to hold on to their spoils and how?

That was my first thought: how many times in history has wealth gone "poof"? What happened to those who had been wealthy, and what happened to their wealth?

I'd look to find out who had looked at that problem, what they recommended, and whether that sounded reasonable for this time. Barton Biggs just looked at that problem, but it seems like he recommended heading for the hills. That seems to be the route Rainwater was taking, while wisely keeping his head down.

For me, I'd want a decent world for my two kids to live in, so I like the idea of building electric rail everywhere, and implementing Stuart's old idea of connecting the world with solar grids. But with only a billion to work with, I'm not sure I could buy enough influence to make a dent in the problems. If you can't solve the problems, the next best bet is to move somewhere you'll be safer from them. Buying ag land in Canada might be a good bet.

If I were a billionaire?

I'd be implementing the plan I've outlined. See: Question Everything. Of course if any billionaires are reading this they are invited to contribute!

1) what would you do if you were a billionaire?

Is this a paper billionare or actual owner of means of production in place that translate to a billion of otherwise ill-liquid 'things'?

Ritter chocolate group or the carpet maker in the film "The Corporation" are examples of what I'd hope to do.

The other variant of hope would be grow crops that at one time lacked Monsanto DNA in them then, when they had the precious IP of Monsanto I'll ask them to remove it and return the seeds so I can plant 'em. (Bust the idea that one can patent life is what I'd be shooting for.) I'm sure there are others chops who could be busted...just for a laugh. What they gonna do? Outspend me? As the Pledge says the end - Liberty and Justice for all who can afford it.

2) what would you recommend current billionaires do?

Go close to ground and hope that if this thing gets as bad as I fear that when the mobs come looking, you are either not there or considered 'one of the boys' and the mob won't wanna kill ya.

Make sure your family (extended) has everything paid off and is energy self sufficent and could be food self sufficent on the land holdings they have. Pay for the education of the kids of said family - Medicine, Law, Engineering et la...set a few up as Congress-kritters if you can. Make sure holdings in other nations are set up in case one place sucks bad.

I'll ask them to remove it and return the seeds so I can plant 'em.

I'd just put up 'posted' signs around the farm and sue 'em for a half a billion counts of trespassing. Not being able to read is no excuse for all those delinquent pollen grains ;-)

It is an interesting legal position Monsanto has taken - they "own" certain genetic markers in a plant.

So you'd have to file your own 'ownership' then, when Monsanto's genes show up in what was yours, making it theirs, you've been harmed. And in "our" legal system, if you had their genes in your crop you'd get sued. So why not the other way 'round? As I was harmed, I'd want to be made whole so they can remove their property from mine and return the fully functioning seeds back to me, sans their property. Reasonable, no?

Another group I'd like to take a wack at - ASCAP. Set up a place with 3-5 seperate buildings on the same lot. One is food prep, one cooking, one storage, one for the public and a private space. All just under the 'don't pay ASCAP' square footage rule. And when they come a knocking - tell 'em to bugger off and once the suit starts bury 'em in interrogertories. With the final affermative defense of 'neerner neener - I'm under your square footage rules.' Another variant - play only non ASCAP music. The final variant, and odds are the one I'd pick without being a billonare - take the ASCAP license then pick the bookkeeping option where you track each and every song. Play obscure, old stuff so that royalities would have to accrue to said people, track 'em down, then work up a class action on their inability to pay the artists properly.

Lets build a sand pile.

We can put more and more sand on the pile until it reaches its angle of repose.

Then if we add just a little more sand we have s sudden slide.

The finding of oil is has allowed us to build the biggest pile of top predators this planet ever seen.

If I were a billionaire I would be a top top predator. This would consume my attention.

T Rex was susceptible to a change in the environment. Had T bought a controlling interest in Galileo Inc, and seen what was coming, the outcome might have been different.

It is beyond the power of Billionaires, but not of little children.
But I would stab the beast in the heart.
Revoke the Corporations act.
Corporations are not people.

Excellent. The corporation as a legal entity equal in rights to human beings is a rot at the heart of all of our systems. My children will be aware of this, but what about the other 12 billion children of 2050? Mass media is controlled by the corporations, no chance of getting such a message across.

equal in rights to human beings

But not equal in responsibilities?

Immoral and immortal

Arthur, did we meet at the ASPO conference in Denver last year. We spoke about this "angle of repose" theory....in the hotel across the pedestrian bridge.

It's an interesting theory(and a wonderful novel written by Wallace Stegner that won a 1972 Pulitzer), that has some bearing....it would appear....on the speed of the decline.

Prigogene also informs this discussion.

I forgot...Gail would be President, and Nate (fill in the blank).

Thank you, Mr. Hagens, for a smart and timely post. I certainly agree with your premise 1) – I think some signs are showing already. For example, the local agriculture group that I meet with, last week broke into a discussion about the large number of farmland transactions that have occurred in Minnesota this year. They are concerned that out-of-state investors will gain a too-large share of land ownership. Owning the land you live on might be an example of “real capital”.

However, I do not agree with 2). I would argue that social status is limited by and to the social group with whom you interact. Perhaps applicable to today’s problems, my parents’ generation (farmers) had a saying from the depression era about how to tell who was failing financially, “First the money, then the clothes.” They were sharp observers of their local world, but knew much less about other social norms.

In a much larger sense, when humans congregate and compete for locally limited resources, on a country scale, a financial disaster from whatever cause normally results in a reset of the total wealth of the country that suffers the disaster, relative to some external marker, but relative distribution within the citizenry varies little as a result. All members go back to work and begin again to build wealth, but those less financially prior to the collapse do not gain advantage as a result.

Summarily, wealth does not convey the ability to accumulate wealth; wealth is the result of the ability to accumulate wealth, whether relative or absolute.

It is my belief that the kind and gentle nature of the society in which we live is enabled only by the conditions that allow economic growth. These conditions include the obvious, such as increasing EROI and increasing efficiencies of energy production or conversion, transportation, communication, etc., and of course there are numerous other complicating factors. If those conditions change such that growth can occur no more, or growth becomes decline, our kind and gentle society will likely become less so. It is not a stretch to compare the billionaires of today to the robber barons of the past. If I was a billionaire today, I would be using all tactics to ensure that the relative size of my slice of the pie did not shrink. It just doesn’t seem likely that if Wall Street collapsed, and the local billionaires suffered as a result, that I would gain or they would lose, relative social standing in my community.

If I were a billionaire right now, I'd be liquidating everything and pouring it into arable farmland, or those swathes of useless housing estates. Water access essential. I wouldn't give a jot for the houses and end up pushing them down or stockpiling the salvaged building material for more modest residences for my new influx of manual laborers. If society is going to start back sliding away from energy intensive activities, you can bet that beasts of burden (traditionally, that's you and me) will never have the capital to buy the place we work no matter what a dollar is worth.

I can see two old forms of power / status re-emerging in most communities: wealthy landowners and trade guilds. Human physical power and skill are very different things to manage in a society where economic growth, credit and cheap energy are not available.

The other thing I'd invest in would be rail for the short term and bullocks in the long term. Nothing beats a bullock team for shifting massive loads over huge distances, but can run on grass. You need land to breed bullocks. Old road trains can be adapted to bullock power while the trees (slowly) grow back.

If I were not a billionaire and currently lived in a city, I would seriously think about uprooting NOW and moving to a much smaller community. It takes time to build social roots in a small community and you need to be ahead of the curve by 10 years or so to make them into a workable social network of like minded folk.

If I were a billionaire, I would acquire controlling interest in an oil field, an energy company or some other non-renewabe resource company. Then for every, yes every unit of energy recovered and sold I would use the revenues to create ventures, that would create equal unit of energy from renewable resources, or create real transition living systems like the ruralization visualized by Folke Gunther, decentralized food production production systems for the future and so on.

What better mission for a billionaire and his corporate partners, his, er....... her family, tribe, community? a mission with a view towards the future.



Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you know that you few have been chosen for your demonstrated wisdom and foresight over long and difficult lives. And you have been chosen for your skills and insights as well, not only in science and all of its branches, , but in all of the arts and activities that constitute our human condition.

Your task is immense, but you will have whatever time and support you feel needed to complete it. The target date is a year, but you collectively will decide what constitutes a completion, and a proper publication, containing your conclusions, as well as assenting and dissenting remarks from any of you who wish to do so.

Your funding will be, within very large limits, what you feel is necessary to complete your task, by whatever means you decide, including studies and experiments by yourselves or those you appoint.

Your report will contain at least the following, as well as anything else you decide should be included:
present state of humanity and the world
desired state of humanity and the world in near future
means to move from present to future
costs and benefits of doing so
models showing probable results of differing procedures.
probabilities of the various outcomes
persuasions effective to gain goals stated.

You have been chosen because each of you has demonstrated beyond doubt your ability to overcome the apparently impossibly high barriers presented by politics, religion, preconception, lack of foresight and all other human-constructed obstacles, and to achieve your goals despite them all. Your task is here the same, to construct an achievable vision and path to the best near future, overcoming all in your way.

This is your task. We wish you wisdom in your work. What support we can give, you shall have.

Please send the first $billion installment to me please.

Nope, sorry 'bout that. You didn't make the cut. Neither did I. Nighty nite.

1) what would you do if you were a billionaire?

At the time of this article, a billion is still a lot of money. About $21 a minute for a lifetime, if you live to be 90, for example. There are probably some islands one could buy for that, but I'd be inclined to invest in some of the philanthropies mentioned above -- supporting real science in higher education, perhaps. For about 15% or 20% of it.

Getting integrated into a locally oriented community seems like a good idea too, Rainwater-style.

But knowing what I know now, I'd also be inclined to put as much as possible into launching genuinely EROEI-positive alternative energy industries, focusing on solar photovoltaics. Set up silicon reduction plants near existing wind farms, and crank out panels as fast as can reasonably be managed -- kind of like the ideas of Matt Simmons and Stranded Wind, but for silicon. There could be some other niche forms of concentrated energy from an enterprise like that as well, for example sodium borohydride as a portable source of hydrogen, although that one is a little more speculative -- sodium borohydride is quite expensive to make, energywise.

2) what would you recommend current billionaires do?
Study and emulate the Rainwater plan. Think small, very small. And sustainable.

Nate, do a lot of billionaires read The Oil Drum or Campfire? If not, since you've met about a dozen of them, I hope you know of some more reliable ways to get these ideas to them ...

the internet is very self selecting

If I was a billionaire, I would be a greedy, lying, ruthless bastard who stepped on millions (billions?) of others to accumulate my wealth.

First I would corrupt government with my money. I would pay government to pass laws that suppress my competition and give my business favor. Having secured my monopoly I would deregulate the media allowing me to control the information delivered to entire regions. I would dumb down the educational system to produce graduates who are more susceptible to my programming. In addition to turning them into docile consumer bots, I would program them as zombies supporting my corporate and political values. I would force my governmental puppets to support globalization allowing me to set up factories in China using slave labor and bypassing environmental regulation. I would expand the market for my products to the world and drive down the wages in the Western countries to maximize my profits. I would create a boogieman to keep the patriots and military preoccupied and excuse the dismantling of civil liberties allowing me to accumulate even more power.

If I encounter a few snags along the way, such as oil price shocks, shortages and financial meltdowns, I would compel my political puppets to tap into tax revenue to save my ass with corporate welfare. I would make my political puppets take the fall as I collect my big fat bonus. I would keep my programed peasants distracted fuming over trivial ideology and believing in fairy tales while I dip my hand into their pockets. I would demonize intellectuals because they are a threat to my devices.

When the time is ripe, I would send my brainwashed peasants, puppets and patriots to cleanse the cities and countryside of those who resist being dumbed down and who defy my designs by developing sustainable communities. My private army will protect me. In the wreckage of a once prosperous country the disheveled, desperate, depopulated peasants will emerge to work for me in my new, shiny, deregulated factories for pennies as virtual slaves.

I would be a greedy, lying, ruthless billionaire who rules the world from behind a curtain on the falling edge of peak resources and population.

As for recommendations for current billionaires, I suggest they split their companies into small localized business, give them away to competent employees, go postal on their family members, confess their crimes and report to the nearest federal penitentiary.

You’re definitely qualified

You're either Rupert Murdoch, or at least he is a close personal friend of yours.

Maybe .... fund grants for equipment and training of groups such as search&rescue, sheriff's auxiliaries, volunteer fire departments, neighborhood watches and maybe certain militias. Encourage schools to shooting teams, biathlon training. A diagonal economy of fractal scale needs robust localized security. A dimension left out of many localization discussions.

So this morning I feel like buying buffalo land. A 10000 acre ranch in the grasslands.

Good way to proceed, Ron. I would additionally suggest funding trade schools offering essential skills training with free tuition and some incentives to remain local for a period of time - say 5 years to establish local ties for the beneficiaries of my largesse. I would buy enough land to offer some homesteading by those so trained, with say 10 or 15 year terms to gain full ownership for themselves. I would incentivise small business ownership for the area. I would make local industry the cornerstone of my new community. I would devote half of my new fortune to so developing a sustainable community and community values. I would encourage the stability of that community, population-wise, but happy people tend to reproduce, so such stability would have to include surplus land, water and other resources to be continued through the remainder of my and my children's lives. (If my children were wise, they would produce no grandchildren for me, but in reality, it is too late for that.)

Now don't you other billionaires try to infringe on my ideas. Go find your own way to stay alive. The natives will probably be quite angry when they discover I am just doing this as a means to continue breathing.

Hey hey Nate,

Good questions.

2) I would advise my billionaire friend that investments in infrastructure are nice, but that they eventually wear out, break down, and need to be maintained, repaired, or replaced. The capacity to maintain, repair and replace things is where the important difference can be made.

Then I would argue that institutions and social norms are important drivers of a society's overall capacity to accomplish goals. I would point out the legacy of colonialism; observing that countries with favorable climates were settled by Europeans who brought their institutions and norms with them and those countries have above average levels of democracy, equality, freedom, and prosperity but countries with climates hostile to Europeans were not settled. Instead they were managed as extractive plantations setting up unequal, hierarchical, corrupt, and repressive norms and institutions that persist to the present day. Map of per capital GDP

Then I would suggest that my wealthy friend spend some time thinking about what individual and social characteristics he/she thinks are important or beneficial. Then spend more time thinking about the types of institutions and organizations that would engender those characteristics. I would probably suggest something along the lines the boy scouts, but modeled after John Micheal Greer's green wizards, the green scouts. Or an academy that groomed people for political office, but that only recruited new members from the peace corps. Or a peer review/social networking media for journalism that only rewards for integrity.

I assume that my billionaire friend only became wealthy through some talent or insight and that he/she is more than capable of thinking up with a good way to accomplish this task.

1) If it were me... I would start a few dozen worker owned businesses and cooperatives in the same region. The businesses would be vertically integrated in a few diverse sectors that I think will be important. Some would be ordinary enterprises like grocery stores or utilities and others specializing in areas likely only to be useful or viable post peak. Then I would spend down my fortune paying these cooperatives to do what they do. If, for example, I think that Zeppelins are going to become economical after fuel becomes scarce. Then I would start a cooperative to build Zeppelins. I would buy the Zeppelins and deploy them in a cooperative running scenic tours or first class fare along commuter routes like Sydney to Melbourne.

Here is what I would hope to get for my billions. A large group of people that know how to work together to get a job done with skills and equipment at their disposal. A long term social norm in the region of collective approaches to solving problems. The vertical integration of cooperatives would hopefully lead to putting long term relationships before short term profits. The cooperative structure would hopefully lead to placing a premium on the equitable distribution of income, democracy, and transparency.

I would find two or three countries that are unlikely to be ravaged by any future wars, resource or otherwise, and focus my efforts in one region of the country. Iceland, Ireland, Hawaii, the Falklands, Tasmania, Madagascar, and New Zealand are good examples of places that are out of the way and unlikely to be invaded or do and invading. The model is roughly akin to monks saving knowledge in monasteries after the fall of Rome, but here social capital and positive norms and institutions are preserved through the energy descent.

Almost 30 years ago while on a roof top looking out over the city, I gazed at all the wasted space. No solar panels, no worries about where the world was going. So I wrote another story about another rich guy who did something about it. My problem was that I had been imagining what a rich person would do in the first person as an escape type of fiction from an early age. The stories I have written since then have guys who are trillionaires, not just billionaires.

Everytime someone hears about someone else getting millions, you start to think what you would do with the wealth if that was you. Maybe it is a game only poor people play, or maybe everyone plays it. But I have been thinking about the subject for so long, everytime I see a news headline, I rewrite it, as if I had the money to help the people in it, be it floods, to homes getting blown away, or this current financial mess we are in.

If I really today had a billion dollars, what would I have been doing or what would I now do? Guessing you just handed me the money, transfered it from your Swiss Bank account into my state side one, You'd have to have given me enough to still ahve a billion after taxes took their share.

I'd call my brother up and tell him, He has a job again. I'd form the company Future Tech, and the company BioWebScape Designs. Future Tech would push for space based and earth based designs to get us back into space, not just earth orbit but to the moon and research in other than 0 g, or 1 g gravity living. As we do not know what it would be like on the human body to live long term on the moon, nor if it is even possible to live long term on mars. We kinda know how to do some things, but not even enough to get ourselves off this rock for long periods of time. There needs to be work done in that side of spcae research before we even get ready to go to Mars.

BioWebScape Designs is my newest project, that combines food and housing issues into one lump. We live on a planet where 100's of thousands of plants can be eaten, yet our diets are usually limited to maybe a few dozen plants. Most places on earth could grow hundreds if not thousands of food plants incorporated into a food forest type of ecosystem. We never had to strip the land bare and plant row crops, we just did that because we were short sighted.

Information about our world is all around us, lots of it is online (half of the Web part of the name, the other half of it is the Web of life) We could use what we know and share it with others better than we do now.

There was an old saying about land, " they aren't making anymore of it, so it's a great investment." But that is not true, just looks that way. Land is being formed and destroyed all the time, volcanoes at sea form new land; rivers pile silt up into sandbars; ocean waves move sand and coastlines; rivers and rain erode land. Just to name a few that are visible on a daily basis. But land that humans can live on, is one thing that has been the american dream for a while.

A chunk of land, to live on and pass on to another generation. We could have done so much better these past few decades. Better building practices, more passive solar houses, better planned expansion of cities. Only a handful of designers have changed how we live and work for the better. Not nearly enough given that we now are going on 7 billion people on earth and most of them worry about the roofs over their heads, if they even have them. Almost everyone wonders about their next meal. Just look at the 43 million Americans that do, living off of food stamps, is not something they would have expected 20 years ago, at least not all of them.

We need Air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, and a place to sleep safely. Everything else is just gravey.

If I was a billionaire, I'd be making some of that a better reality, for more than just a few people that I could do now.

I have a lot more real wealth than cash money in the bank. I have skills, loads of tools, and tons of ideas on how things could be better. Somewhere along the way people forgot that keeping bees was about making use of honey and watching bees do wonderful jobs. We thought it was about making money and getting a brand new car, or living in style. Forgetting that you could live in style on a nice piece of land, living closer to where your food came from.

I see places like China, moving off the land, into huge cities, forgetting how to farm, forgetting where their water comes from, forgetting everything but social wealth and stasis. We have done it here in the USA as well.

Maybe we have gotten too big for our own good, too many people, not enough understanding of the world around us, a disconnect that is going to doom us to a crash, and money won't save us, only learning how to live without it will.

I see a future where money is a tool, you change it for services or things, but you don't exspect to make a profit on the moving of it through your system. No interest made on money transfers. A steady state of money supply, where it is goods and services that are the true wealth. People sharing more of their time and energy, of their knowledge and how to have fun. We have it in us to live in harmony. We can at least imagine it, so if we can imagine it, we can live it. We just have to work harder at balancing our desires with those of others around us.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Interesting post. If I was a billionaire then the world is to messed up. By this I mean I'm not so sure that the world should have problems with solutions that result in someone being worth a billion dollars. And most say 100 million. That I could see. More than that and its a signal that the world is fundamentally flawed.

In a world with a few 100 millionaires their purchasing power from some things would be equal to todays billionaires not all but some. In such a world they would not flaunt their money but also they would obviously have the nicest houses mansions to rival many of those today.
In general the wealthiest or ones with the most stuff if you will would have it from many generations of family money. Although no one person would be super wealthy the family in aggregate would accumulate durable goods not unlike todays billionaires.

Thats not to say some projects would not be done in such a world where billionaires play to day but it would take several thousand of these 100 millionaires to give a portion of their capitol to the project. And obviously it would have to be a well thought out investment to proceed. A world where raising capitol was much much harder and it might take decades to get something done that we do in a year today.

What would I do in my alternate world if I was a 100 millionaire ?
Probably not to much really most of my money would be allocated towards staid standard industries providing a steady return. Some of course would be allocated to science and the arts but as a patron even most of this would be fairy fixed stuff. I'm sure I'd be able to skew the allocations just a bit to match up with my desires but I suspect not to much.
The "family" and history would probably make it difficult to do much with most of it.

This would leave me with a lot less that I really control say about 10 million dollars. I'd not be hugely different from some other poorer rich people. The newly rich would have more freedom but also unlike me could easily lose most of their wealth. I'd be hard pressed to lose more than 10% of mine. The society and indeed laws probably would simply not allow it.

But I think I'd be like all the other people with a bit of money I'd take my 10 million and try and invest it in what I believed in. Not to make more money because in such a world I'd be at the upper end of allowed personal wealth already. So more money would not be a factor. I could of course lose it but also thats not huge perhaps I'd be forced to wait a few years to regain the money from my fixed investments. Being forced on the sidelines from a bad bet would probably be my biggest social fear. But on the same hand doing nothing or simply partying would also not be desirable at least for me.

So depending on how big my dreams where I'd be out raising money or figuring out how to bootstrap and operation with little money.

I'd imagine that in such a world what we consider research they would often consider production. Instead of billion dollar silicon fabs that are impossible to raise money for.
Much smaller "R&D" fabs that are easier to fund would actually be numerous and in production. Each on perhaps adding its own twist or perhaps building some sort of standard product. Perhaps such a world would not enjoy the economies of scale we have but I'd argue flexibility and rapid innovation would beat our system. Instead of Intel and a few other chip makers you would have thousands scattered all over the world. Each one keen to try any innovation.

In my world what we think requires a billion dollars would be the norm and done with a lot less money. Obviously profit margins would be a lot lower labor cost substantially higher but few would be looking for huge profits. But it would also be impossible to have huge losses. One has to imagine that innovative people would be rewarded probably not to the point of becoming worth 100 million in a single lifetime but certainly tens of millions and as I said such individuals would have far less allocated to the infrastructure economy.

Eventually if family fortunes continued to look good they too would join ranks with the other top families have effectively carved out a new industry or innovation that allowed them to expand in a very static world.

So finally in such a world it seems that your really simply dealing with even the top having access to only about 10 million or so of play money. Perhaps the wealthier can make more risky investments but still its not a huge number. Indeed if you give it some thought its about the biggest number that a single individual could invest wisely. Any more and your deeply dependent on others to invest for you for better or worse.

And that gets down to the real heart of the matter because this is what I think is important not a billion dollars but how much money can be invested with the most thought and consideration possible. 10 million seems to be this number to me. Indirect investment based on the advice of others would probably be only 1 million even for the wealthiest.
Even then it would be watched closely.

Thus a billionaire turns out to be useless indeed worse than useless as their poor decisions can wealth simply distort the market. My world has a much more level playing field. But also I think its even more dynamic as I pointed out what we call research today would be considered a profitable product.

Can you see in the offing, there on the far horizon, the first slouching trillionaire lumbering toward Bethlehem to be born?

If I Were a Billionaire...

I would live like Tiger Woods!!!
..and give up my job in the oil patch.

This Wile E Coyote moment - the collective realization that there are more digits owned and promised than can or will ever be paid back will likely result in 80%, 90%, or even 100% of financial assets of all kinds to go poof. In my estimation this is a strong possibility in the coming decade and even potentially within five years.

Keynes had a more technical description to this sort of event: a rapid reduction of money velocity; it's fancier but it means the same. It where these Coyote moments that produced the XIX century 10 years cycles and what was 1929.

More than anyone else Keynes understood what was at the root of this, though most folk today don't perceive it that way. With constrained money supply these Coyote events are inevitable in an industrial society where physical growth far out paces monetary mass growth. Keynes dedicated the last years of his of life to enact abstract currencies, whose dynamic supply could be used to frame velocity. The Bancor was his ultimate attempt to avoid Gold becoming again the de facto world currency.

What is wrong with your thesis in my view is the claim that impeding debt cannot be repaid. Oh yes it can, but at the expense of a big jump in monetary velocity, in which case all that digital wealth goes overboard anyway. The end result would be the same, but through a rather different process. It is in my view far more painful a Coyote moment where digital wealth moves only towards more liquidity than one when it may move towards less liquidity.

If I where a billionaire I'd buy a small city and would start a Re-ruralization or Transition process. Not a brain dead green eco-village, but a small society living from science-based, fossil-fuel-free agriculture, that would strive with or without economic growth at the macro scale.

In a low velocity scenario it'll be very hard to convince a billionaire to something of the like...

Part #1: Since I considered I was somehow responsible for making "my" $1B, It then becomes my job to decide how the bulk is to be used and oversee its distribution.

Who else's responsibility is it? No separate committee or Board Of HiredManagers or holier-than-thou stuffed-shirts or sycophants or banksters made "my" fortune, so it is only fitting that the responsibility to disburse the funds is also mine. Otherwise, I couldn't believe that "my" fortune was really mine, could I?

At about 40+ years old, I'd set aside a few $Million to richly suppport my remaining life. Then I work full-time deciding how to responsibly spend the bulk. And I spend it and take responsibility for the results.

I like free and able spirits, so for my choice of projects, I would create ways to truly enhance peoples comprehension and evaluation abilities so that they free themselves from authoritarian pretenders and faux-masters who only want to control them.

Establish free courses and teach the correct and complete use of dictionaries. Teach the use of personal demonstration and practical test to confidently evaluate any datum...as opposed to believing "experts" or father-figures or "authorities" or Herr Doctor Professors.

Sepatately, I'd select and subsidize students to become medical practitioners to staff free-clinics for general health needs. Get other sponsors involved. Break the monopoly of for-profit healthcare "business" by guaranteeing the practitioners attractive incomes. There are very many who want to practice, but cannot afford the training.

Part #2: See Part #1 and decide for yourself what to do with "your" excess money.

Do not be lazy or irresponsible by giving it to someone else to decide. Anyone else is just a hired manager, or sycophant, whose real job is maximize his personal "take"...just like you did. How else can you make $1B?

If you cop-out and give it to a "charity" group, you and "your" money are both frauds.

[Hat-tip to Andrew Carnegie for his thoughts on this very topic.]

This week I have a job interview to join a small solar PV retail/installer company. The UK has just introduced a very large feed in tariff for grid connect PV, and business is booming.

Of course, given the financial conditions, it is only a matter of time before the plug gets pulled on this subsidy.

I would be taking a substantial pay cut, losing my cheap pension deal, life insurance, and leaving a financially secure employer.

If I get two years before the financial plug is pulled, I hope I will will have a foot-hold in a second career that will see my family through until my children are grown. I will also have a discount price PV system installed!

It is a no-brainer.

Of course, given the financial conditions, it is only a matter of time before the plug gets pulled on this subsidy.

I would be taking a substantial pay cut, losing my cheap pension deal, life insurance, and leaving a financially secure employer.

RalphW, welcome to the world inhabited by those who of us who have made the conscious decisions to move beyond BAU.

If I had a billion or two I'd invest as much of it as possible, while it is still worth something, in building up my access to human capital by seeding many small clusters of highly innovative thinkers, giving them as much freedom as possible to think completely outside the box. I would try to scatter the seeds as far and as widely as possible.

Oh, and I'd take special care to ensure that my own antlers stayed as small as possible >;^)

A few months ago I got a phone call from my brother, and the next day a letter from a lawyer. Aparently I had - just like in the movies - an unknown uncle, who died without a family. And with loads of cash. Since my father is dead I have an 1/8 share of the money. Wich means that 50 000+ Eurous is heading my way.

I grew up poor. I have a divorced mother with 3 children, and during my childhood she had a low skilled part time work. Also since this was the eighties there was a gender salary discrimination thing going on at the company. We had what we needed, but nothing more. The most luxry item in the home was the TV.

So when the kid who used to be poor meets (in relative terms) Big Money, what does he do? Some people would party away the money, but I am programmed to use any resource wisely. So that did not happen. What did happen though, chocked me. I became a greedy person. Sudenly I just cred about myself, and my own economical wealth. 50 K Euros may not seem alot to you, but in the curency we use in Sweden it is half a million. I am half way to beeing a millionare. Money wealth is just a number after all. And as stated in the article above; once you are above a base line of necesary supply, it is the relative wealth that matters.

It ended up with that I seriously considered giving away 9/10 of the money so that I could remain myself. I later decided against it, I will instead use the money to buy a house.

Summary; money does make you greedy, even if you do not believe you have it inside you.

As for what I would advise a billionaire, a few questions revolving around "What do you want ?"

- What is your mix of altruism, enlightened self interest and selfishness ?

- What time horizon before you see tangible results ?

- What scale do you want to see results in ? Small and intense or larger and more diffuse ?

- How enduring ? A generation past your own lifetime, multi-centuries or multi-millennium ?

- Related to above, how do you feel about social investments/positive changes vs. tangible physical investments/positive changes ?

- What are your values of humans compared to the rest of reality ?

- How diversified do you want to be ? All in one big deal, or multiple smaller efforts on a variety of fronts ?

- How engaged, on a personal level, do you want to be ? A new life's work or just "write a check" ?

- Do you want to attract others to make comparable investments, thus multiplying the effect but at a personal cost to you ? (i.e publicity & promotion)

- What probability of success are you willing to invest in for whatever goals you have ? (I would assume that you would want a very high probability of enough food to eat, comfortable housing and decent medical care to a very old age, but that can be managed with a fraction of the total $).

- Just how many billions do you have ? The options for $50 billion are greater than $1 billion.

My initial thoughts,


If I were a billionaire I would buy into a media empire in a way where I could demand the publication of truthful accounts of the US social political structure.

I would hire gangs of attorneys to attack various public official and demand that courts return the rule of law to the US government.

I would spend as much time as I could sharing my wealth in a manner that reinforces thoughtful, humble consumption of the earth's resources in everyday activities.

Bud - You sound pretty full of yourself.

"I would hire gangs of attorneys to attack various public official and demand that courts return the rule of law to the US government."

The rule of law usually requires some interpretation - whose interpretation would you suggest? Jefferson's (with all its faults) or Rupert Murdock's ? They seem to be quite different.

If I were a billionaire I would buy into a media empire in a way where I could demand the publication of truthful accounts of the US social political structure.

You don't need to be a Billionare. You can post on various internet forums, create your own forum et la.

By having a pile of money and an "inconvient opinion" of others "in power" I'm guessing you'd end up a corpse right quick...what with the sociopathic nature of most of the people at the top of power.

No money and on a "public" internet forum? You are just a crackpot.

Have you bothered to become a notery? Once you do, you are invested with the magical power that, once you place your stamp on a statement it becomes the TRUTH to the State. That allows you to sit in court (in some states, your milage will vary) and you can function like a court reporter - what you state happened - happened. Even sitting in court lets you become a 'credible witness' so you can then send off bar grivences for what 'bad' things you see.

I would hire gangs of attorneys to attack various public official and demand that courts return the rule of law to the US government.

Again, don't need to be a billionare. Rule of Law Radio is taking a shoe string budget and (attempting) to educate on the use of the Grand Jury power to do just that. Same with Justice Magazine - from the guy who has summerized the rules of evidence as Juristdictonary.

The now dead Schlock from Illionis who put away some of their State superime court justices - shows that one doesn't need to be a billionare. One just has to be willing to put up a fight. Eddy Craig (again Rule of Law) has some very interesting comments on how he's gotten to where he is and, well, I doubt most people would take such a 10+ year journey.

An Example of what can be done: Right now the meme about the TSA is about the invasion of "personal space" via pornoscanners and pre flight groping. The "law" (is it administrative? Actual wording in the draft by Congress? Established by adjudication?) says a fine of $11,000 if you decide you don't want to play with the TSA. Anyone who would like a shot at educating people about Jury Nullification can mention how such a power exists so that when these people who are opting out of the TSA process via walking out - they have a shot at not having their wallets lightened via fine/jail time so long as juries know about nullification.
(The MP3 makes the general case better than I can. Up to you to craft the narrative to the TSA and human dignity.)


I'm currently writing a science-fiction novella based on the alternate history premise that Jimmy Carter won the 1980 election and set us on a successful path to independence from fossil fuels, which was largely achieved in 2005. After that story is in the envelope to ANALOG (a magazine largely by, for, and about engineers) I'm going to start another novella with you as hero.

This story about your success in implementing your rail proposals will be set in roughly the 2015--2035 time period. I'm not ready to start research on this story, but I think your old posts and comments on TOD would be invaluable.

I'm wondering now if AMTRAK is feasible from Minneapolis to New Orleans. I would greatly like to share some of that great food and some strong coffee with you. Well, I'll just call up AMTRAK and see what the story is on routes.

I am more than flattered :-)

Make a spot for Ed Tennyson.

The last edit before publishing "Citizen's Guide" was Ed and I sitting on the veranda of his country club (no dues after age 75 if a member for 20 years, when enacted Ed and his wife were the only two that qualified), overlooking the quite beautiful golf course outside DC on a beautiful Sunday after ASPO-DC. He sipped his rye whiskey (from "his" bottle said the waiter) and I a Bloody Mary for 3 hours as he quizzed me and commented on every paragraph for over 3 hours. And then 45 minutes on Chapter 2 - Urban Rail and what Ed would contribute. Then he left to pick up his wife for dinner (she no longer drives) and we had a superb dinner together.

The paper (reviewed by Heading Out here on TOD)

I am unsure how old Ed is now (never asked), but his wife and he have celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary.

A partial list of his accomplishments.

- Emeritus member of Transportation Research Board (division of Nat'l Academy of Engineering)
- Unit of measurement, a "tennyson" is a measure of passenger density on urban rail
- Wrote controversial paper in 1960s that showed that cities above a certain size would, of mathematical necessity, be congested if everyone drove to work, etc. More area for cars > more distance between places for people > more driving > demand for more area for cars "to cure congestion" is the fundamental insight.
- Last living member of team that prosecuted GM for buying streetcar lines in order to shut them down. They won, GM was fined $5,000. (Ed was technical support, not a lawyer).
- Operations manager for start-up of San Diego Trolley. First new light rail line in USA for half century. Single track operations at first (tough management challenge).
- Ordered EMUs for SEPTA (Philly area) that are just now being replaced 43 years later
- Estimated DC Metro ridership for complete system before first line opened. Off by 3%. (I said he was just lucky. His response was "You have to be good to be lucky").

I mentioned his name to the head of APTA (transit agency group) at a conference and got a 5 minute paean.

Greatest compliment I have ever received was Ed saying "I will do anything, except maybe slit my own throat, to support what you are doing".

And then there is Hans Herren, who after single handedly preserving a "staff of life" food crop, preventing 200 million people from suffering the trauma of famine and saving 10 to 20 million lives, now wants to help resolve the world's energy and environmental problems.

He picked me up out of nowhere (he liked my ideas, they "made sense") and we have co-authored a paper outlining a rough joint solution to energy, economic and environmental problems.

Click on upper right corner for pdf of paper

Quite frankly, I am the lesser hero in this tableau.

Best Hopes for Joint Efforts,


PS; True "color" above to help in your writing. Sometimes reality is better than fiction.


IMO you are nearly an ideal hero, and I'll make a few changes--such as reducing your age and restoring you to 20/20 vision in both eyes.

How about Al Draken for your fictional name?

Plenty of room for co-heroes in a 35,000 word story.

Thank you for your advice; I'll research each of the people you mention and figure out what "characters" they play. I may have to combine two real people into one fictional character for plot reasons.

The villains will be the auto-centric politicians.

You shall have a complete triumph in implementing all your proposals. It may be expedient to introduce some new high-temperature superconductors for electrifying the rails. I keep up on such things through SCIENCE NEWS, which has a good article on high-temperature superconductors in its Nov. 6 issue.

That $5,000 fine does not sound like a lot but if that was in the money of the time what would that be equivalent to today?


The price of 2 or 3 fully loaded Cadillacs.


Hi Alan,

Suppose your billionaire would like to support a project potentially capable of making a difference on many levels, from small and intense to large and diffuse?

I would like to see a large electronic billboard , located at a point easily visible from a major freeway,near a major university , in every large city and smaller ones so long as the money lasts, but with enough reserved to ensure that the lights stay on on these billboards for ten years..As Greenish has remarked in the past, such efforts must be sustained long term in order to penetrate the public consciousness.

These billboards would be programmed to change thier message on a regular basis, and the message would be the sort that cannot be disputed-such as the dates oil producrtion began and peaked in various fields or areas, such as Pennyslvania, Oklahoma, Texas, Alaska, and the North Sea-plus current production levels-a list such as this would run for maybe a week and then switch to a list showing consumption daily, for some representative different countries, over the last few decades;with world wide totals included.

Altogether there might be fifty or more such energy related scripted lists or presentations, no arguments,no interpretations, just facts presented.

After running these for a month or so, change over to another set of scripts, again just facts, no interpretations, listing consumption of iron ore, coal, etc, and historical depletion data-plus historical data on international trade versus local production.

Altogether it might take a couple of months for everything that should be included to run for a few hours a week at different times.Some stuff on debt levels , population levels and growth, and so forth would also be included.

Something along the lines of the amount of money Uncle Sam is spending daily on credit per capita and per taxpayer might just get the attention of a lot of people who otherwise are politically disengaged -others would take the data on oil imports and depletion more seriously.

Given the nature of the internet, social networking , reporters looking for stories, and the tendency of people to love to argue and debate and so forth, there would seem to be a strong possibility that the billboards could set off a discussion that would "go viral" in an unprecedented way-after all, nerdy university girls and guys who see such data are going to get into all sorts of arguments about it in bs discussions and so forth-plus there are always a few very perceptive people around who are looking for a new way of making a buck or gaining a following or earning a reputation.

Apparently posting comments here is a hard habit to break-but I'm down to no more than one or two a week now. ;)

I would buy up all the empty lots around here, including the ones that have auto sales companies occupying them, and put farms on them. I've had my eye on 14 acres along the river, 3 miles from downtown. Currently being used to park taxis. I pray it doesn't go condo.

Edit : there's a difference, though, in having a billion dollars in hard cash, and having a net worth on paper of a billion dollars, especially if you are in illiquid (or toxic) assets ;)

I'm assuming a billion dollars in hard currency.

In Zimbabwe trillionaires are dime a dozen.
My fear is that I may become a billionaire thanks to all the money printing done by Bernanke. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Some specific projects I am already involved in but a couple billion $ would help. IMHO, all "high leverage" projects.

- Reforest Iceland. Over a year of global carbon emissions can be absorbed by replanting Iceland a 1,000 years after deforestation. Some specific projects in mind (Heklaskogur, etc.). Long term, a new sustainable resource as well. Swiss stone pines add a new edible crop 40 to 50 years after planting.

- Freight into New York City and Long Island. 97% of the food for 15 million people is trucked in and there is no adequate rail alternative. IMHO, a strategic weakness in an area otherwise reasonable well prepared for evolving post-Peak Oil. (Superb potable water, already low oil & energy use/capita that can go much lower, good water transportation).

Best Phase 1 solution is expand one of the two proposed #7 subway tunnels to New Jersey to allow night and weekend use by freight rail, heading either to Hunts Valley or via LIRR to Long Island. ATM, the marginal cost for a larger diameter on one of the two tunnels and adits at either end to freight lines (West Side Manhattan freight & LIRR at Penn Station for example) are <$1 billion. An offer of private $ (say $70 million) would alter the evaluation landscape.

- Prepare "Urban Rail Saturated" plans for a variety of urban areas. Have viable practical plans available (and publicized) for when panic hits.

And the Big One.

- Evaluate a variety of US national policy options for their medium and long term effects on GDP, Greenhouse Gases, Oil Consumption and Employment/Income Patterns with a "major NGO". Find what effects the different policy options have, alone and in combination. Rationally evaluate "What are our best choices" ?

The use of the "Four E's" (Economy, Energy, Environment and Employment) will allow the creation of coalitions with differing priorities and POVs around common policy options.

Repeat every few years and apply to other nations with more $.

Best Hopes,


Quite a few hundred million $ left :-)


My adolescent answer to what I would do with a billion dollars:

1) 50% would go to buying up endangered habitat in various biodiversity hot spots around the planet

2) 25% would go to a fund for education about the danger of over population

3) 25% would go into research and development of an anthrax type pathogen with no known vaccine. The existence of this pathogen would be announced to all world governments via the united nations and a warning would be given that the pathogen would be released in 50 years to all major cities if humanity failed to succeed in implementing policies that demonstrate a sharp reduction in population and consumption. This pathogen would be held in a trust and administered by a panel (some oil drum posters may receive an invitation to join shortly).

This way the responsibility falls not on a crazed individual to release this pathogen (of playing god) but on the ability of our modern civilization to collectively mitigate overshoot. The release of the pathogen depends on the response of our collective species.

Right on.

I'd put money to use taking down damns and protecting/rebuilding riparian areas to help rebuild migratory fish stocks and stop soil erosion.

On top of that I'd be buying farmland and converting it back to forest/wetland and maybe even considering converting paved land back to farms in suburban areas.

I'd chastise other billiionaires with backhanded compliments.

Also, I'd buy some gold/silver coins on the DL.

I wanna be a billionaire, SO freakin' bad! If I was a billionaire, I'd learn to ski because I'm awesome.

OK, so I have just recieved a cool short Billion. What to do with it. Well, first and most obvious, pay off all the family debts. Then, some combination of the following:

  • fund construction of electrified light rail between three local population centres (50km, using mostly existing road ROW), as well as take over a disused heavy rail line (10-20km) and convert it to light rail.
  • buy the property up in the local hills that I've had my eye on that has spring-fed creek, good soils, and reasonable isolation, but still good access to towns. Heck, probably buy the entire plateau. Install grid-connect CSP.
  • lease commercial rooftop space and install CSP or PV
  • fund CSP installations in remote towns, so that they can eliminate diesel useage (for generators). Investigate grid-connections so the community can make a little money on the side. Employ and train locals to maintain equipment, with a view to eventual ownership of the installation by the community
  • would have bought 1/6th of the QR float, and used my voting influence to electrify everything possible, and shut down the coal lines.
  • construct a TOD on some vacant commercial land locally (currently used as a overflow car park). I calculate some 30 100m2 apartments per floor (allowing for balconies, access etc). 1 floor retail, 1 floor offices, 3 floors residential.

I think some of us sometimes forget the scale of renewable power generation. a cool billion would buy me:

  • about 100 2.5MW wind turbines
  • 100MW of water electrolysis equipment
  • A 100 ton/day Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis unit
  • engineering to put all this together with no power grid connection
  • construction costs

Afterwards, after blowing a billion in capital, and covering salaries for about 25 operations/maintenance people.. I'll be able to make 100% green renewable ammonia for ... About what it currently costs to make it in Trididad/Tobago from stranded natural gas at at 1000 ton/day ammonia plant.

Though "Joe Six Pack" can effect little change, that demographic WILL need to be on board with any billionare's plans. The pentagon is working with scientists such as Dr.Orr as our government is recognizing climate change as a pressing threat to national security. Joe always pays attention to initiatives built on national security issues. I'll put up a billion to fund a propaganda campaign to make a sustainable economy easy to understand, easy to support and as American as apple pie and the very six-pack in Joe's thick fingers. (Insert billion-dollar slogan here.)

I'd spend $100M on good farmland in an area that will be least impacted by climate change and $100M on gold coins. I would quietly sit on these assets until the community was ready and willing to accept help from my lifeboat.

I would place the $800M balance in a fund to be used for mitigation initiatives. I'd invite Jason Bradford, Nate Hagens, Nicole Foss, John Michael Greer, Stewart Brand, and David MacKay to sit on the board to help decide how to spend the funds.

I became interested in population and resources during the late 50's After joining Population Reference Bureau and other organizations I became familiar with Hugh Moore. He was perhaps the equivalent of a billionaire in inflation adjusted terms. Our chapter of ZPG (Zero Population Growth) distributed material from the Hugh Moore Fund. The following is excerpted from a Wiki entry.

Hugh Everett Moore (1887–1972) was the president, and founder of the Dixie Cup company.

chairman of the board, Population Reference Bureau;
vice- president, International Planned Parenthood Federation, 1964;
founder in 1944 and president of the Hugh Moore Fund for International Peace, established to fund organizations involved in population control, which also published Moore's pamphlet "The Population Bomb" in 1954;
co-founder of the Population Crisis Committee, 1965;
president of the Association for Voluntary Sterilization 1964-1969.

From http://www.ejsd.org/public/journal_article/12

"... For example, the expressions “population bomb” and “population explosion” were first introduced in the early 1950s by the businessman and population control activist Hugh Everett Moore (1954) in a twenty-two page pamphlet similarly titled “The Population Bomb!” that by 1967 had gone through thirteen editions and a print run of nearly a million and a half copies (Kasun 1999; Robertson 2005).3 Several individuals borrowed Moore’s title in their own writings. Among the most prominent were the Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Reclamation Michael W. Straus (1955, p. 15) who used it in his book Why Not Survive?; the Stanford professor of chemistry J. Murray Luck (1957, p. 906) who discussed the concept in a presidential address on “Man against his Environment” delivered before the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1957 that was later published in Science; and the director of the Population Reference Bureau Robert C. Cook (1956) who authored an article with this title in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The expression “population explosion” was for its part so widely used that it even graced the cover page of a 1960 issue of Time magazine (figure 1).4 Not surprisingly in an age where A- and H-bombs were on everyone’s minds, several authors also referred to the “P-bomb” (Slick 1958; Troebst 1962; Fabre-Luce 1964)."

Edit to add my memory of the 1960 Time magazine cover picture shown in the above link. The text is not included in the link but I am fairly certain that it featured a wealthy South American business man who sired a huge number of children - was it 68? - over a long lifetime. Needless to say he started young and had a succession of wives as well as some twin pregnancies.

If I were a billionare, I would simply stop working, buy a few nice houses, hire people to do stuff for me, spread some money around to a few close relatives of me and my wife, and then travel a lot and do whatever else interests me - mostly learn stuff from experts I think. How to sing, how to play certain sports and so on. But that would have to evolve.

I'm a bit skeptical about all the testimonials about how you guys would build sustainable this-and-that. Would you really? Wouldn't you just let go of the doomerism and the aversion for TPTB and just go with the flow? Anyway, a billion isn't that much, and you can't make a global impact with that little money. Even with Bill Gates money, you'd have to have a lot of luck to make a global impact. He has just some $54 billion and the global GDP is a thousand times that, each year.

if every billionaire in America gave 1/2 of 1% of their fortune towards the science of economic insurance policies (for currency/trade disruption scenarios), that could have huge payoffs.

I would buy a hydro powerplant to run as a hobby, experiment with funding small research spin-off companies, employ a secretary and an accontant, fund development of free software based gadgets and tools to suit me and perhaps other people, invent a better shoe and see if it catches on, and so on with a few new whims each year. A lot of it would be post peak oil related and it would be great to grow the billion into a few billions and then be able to fund development of some nice new nuclear technology and of course sell series produced plants and kWh and get even more dough to keep a nice feed back loop going.

I would not give money away to relatives and friends, I would use money to make it easier for them to do stuff, that would be a better gift.

Oh well, I bought a new bicyle helmet today suitable to winter biking, should be good for a few years. And I better take out the trash and study some more and get something done...

For winter biking I use studded tires. There are some excellent ones made in Germany, and perhaps Sweden also produces bike tires that are studded for winter use; it would be a logical place to make and sell such tire,

I use a ski mask and an oversize motorcycle helmet when I ride my bike in winter. Motorcycle helmets are much better than bike helmets, and they also help to keep your head warm. The kinds made for motocross racing are, IMO, the best for pedal biking. I also used to use them for summer motorcycling, because I like them better than the $500 road racing helmets that I have also used.

How would you grow your money? I heard the same ideas from others, for instance "risa b" said "All profits to be plowed back into R&D." But what you all propose are in all likelihood big time money sinks.

And sure, Bill Gates could conceivably manage to develop a viable breeder nuclear reactor tech such as the LFTR (in a country that provides a friendly environment for the effort) if he used most of with his money, but success would be far from guaranteed. With just a few billions, you could likely forget about it.

A major problem is the long and uncertain time from starting the technology development until you are able to sell licenses, plants or kWh:rs. Parts of the effort could yield marketable products and services until everything is ready and also give a residual value if the effort fails.

The central problem might be that the design -> implement -> test -> analyse -> design loop needs to turn over realy fast and not get stuck in very slow bueraucracy. It would need the nuclear equivalent to spacex.com

1) Party like it's 1999.

2) Billionaires already have their plans. That would be like telling the Federal Reserve what they should do about interest rates. Duh.

Billionaires already know more about PO, population growth, food, monetary systems, budget deficits, etc. than the average person does. They have people for that. It’s absolutely arrogant to sit here thinking the rich haven’t given this any thought. They have given it a lot of thought. Although it might be a little disheartening to comprehend their response and what that says about our predicament and human nature. They have mostly been lying to the media and public, building “retreats” (bunkers), and partying like its 1999.

The rich are not the last ones who are going to figure this out. That would be the public.

totally respectfully disagree (as I've had numerous conversations with said people and they are not thinking along these lines - sure high oil prices - some temporary financial dislocations, but not the interconnected systems dependent on trade - currency reform angles - not at all actually)

Has Boone Pickens been mentioned in this thread? He spent well over $50 million publicizing his Pickens Plan. He remains bullish on natural gas but has partially abandoned wind energy, at least in the Texas Panhandle. There are still quite a few wind turbines to be seen during the landing approach to the Amarillo airport


If a Billionaire decided to share all his money with the world, that would amount to about 14 cents per person --assuming 7 Billion people.

(Of course this does not include cost of postage, envelopes and writing out checks if the money were to be mailed out as such to the 7 Billion people.)

I'd sink it all into building out Carl's 200 mph Trans system http://www.mb-soft.com/trans/index.html which will deliver tomatoes/people from California to NY in 15 hours, create massive employment, get us off oil, eliminate the deficit, etc. etc. etc.
And spell the end of the car. Cough cough, at last.

Also I'd sink the $200,000 needed to get fresh drinking water to Haiti to keep those poor folks from dying of impure water (also on Carl's site). That would be 1st priority.

I have several answers. I'll give you one. And, the one I give you is pretty clear to me, and one that I'm confident about. If I were a billionaire at this time I would locate myself in a city of like-minded persons such as Boulder, Portland OR, Austin, Seattle, or Vancouver and I would start a Merchant Bank for local crafts, businesses, and Makers. The bank would grant low-interest micro-loans, and lots of them. I would be very transparent about the source, and the size of the capital. I would also be very clear on the types of business that would be receiving micro-loans. Namely, transport, food, energy, education, resources, clothing, architecture--and exports. You get the idea. I would also disclose that I was worth a billion, and, that I was staking a long-term social commitment to my targeted city. A commitment that would be sustained beyond my death, through a panel of other overseers who would dispense capital per charter, or, trust if you will. (nota bene: choosing a single city/region is key to my chosen solution wrt to scale, scope, and impact). I think this is one example of how a billionaire could finish out their days with a very high quality of life, while still enjoying some social rank. Essentially, an aware billionaire should become a VC of energy transition.


Gregor - Very nice ideas. I wish you could implement them. Who knows - when change starts it often happens fast - the key is how long the window will be after things are clear enough that the future we paint is possible/likely. Why would any billionaire pursue your plan if they didn't share your/my view of future?

If I were a billionaire... As quietly as possible, I'd buy greater and greater numbers of palladium contracts on Comex. I'd begin taking delivery while leveraging with paper contracts and profiting on the rise in price. Within six months or so, I'd have cornered the world market in palladium. The government, at the demand of the financial industry, would step in and allow Comex to default and take back as much of my profit as they could. It would be too late though, I would come out slightly ahead financially although most of my paper profit would be confiscated by Comex.

This profit wasn't my goal however. I'd have exposed the inherent instablity of our leveraged financial system at a crucial time. People would begin to panic and dump fiat currency, realizing that at any moment the palladium default could spread to silver and gold. Soon, exactly that would happen. All major currencies would begin to hyperinflate and only hard assets would hold value. Governments would step in and try to prop up the bank monopoly forcing people back into fiat currency in various draconian ways. Again, too late. Large segments of the population would realize they had been duped by the government and financial establishment. Pandemonium would ensue as establishment's media battled the blogosphere. Eventually the establishment would regain control but their propaganda mechanisms would be severely damaged. The average people would begin to live a little more sustainably and think a little more for themselves. They would see their, and society's inherent vulnerability. I would tell anyone who would listen, precisely why I did what I did - although in general I would be vilified and perhaps punished. In the end, it would be for the best that I forced this event sooner rather than later.

All major currencies would begin to hyperinflate and only hard assets would hold value. Governments would step in and try to prop up the bank monopoly forcing people back into fiat currency in various draconian ways.

Glenn, though your plan is well intended I don't think you got the gist of this post - we are totally unprepared for such an outcome - given the interconnectedness of global supply chains. If there is OECD hyperinflation that means end of trade. End of trade means end of lots of things, if it happens in overnight with no preparations by regional/national governments. Ergo, be careful what you wish for. Better to work on the prep than choosing a fancy needle to prick that particular bubble, IMO.