Past Financial Crises Suggest Pain Far From Over

Economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have been publishing various findings from a large-scale data set they have constructed of past financial crises. They have looked back as far as 800 years, but not surprisingly, most of their output has consisted of analyses of modern crises (you can find some earlier discussions here and here).

They have released a summary of a presentation that they will present this weekend at the AEA conference. It’s refreshingly straightforward, and offers some sobering implications for our current. mess.

Their work has shown that financial crises are more severe and protracted than “normal” recessions. In some of their previous presentations, they had parsed out financial crises in advanced economies versus those in developing countries, and were surprised to find their trajectories were remarkably similar, so their latest product looks at both types together. It also includes two prewar developed country episodes where Reinhart and Rogoff had sufficient housing price and other relevant data.

Their latest piece looks at how crises generally progress and resolve themselves. The usual outcomes are worse than most commentators forecast for the US (save the fall in average real estate prices):

1. Real housing price declines average over 35% over a six year period. Note in other crises, residential real estate was not necessarily a focus of the bubble. Even excluding Japan (which has suffered a 17 year housing price decline) the average is over 5 years.

2. Equity prices fall 55% over three and a half years.

3. GDP fall an average of 9% (read that twice)

4. Unemployment increases 7% over previous norms.

5. Government debt “explodes”, increasing an average of 86%, but the cause is typically not a banking industry recapitalization, but maintaining services in the face of collapsing tax revenues and countercyclical measure ex financial system measures.

Note the sample included countries subjected to IMF bailout requirements 1990s Asian crisis, like Indonesia and Thailand, which led to dramatic declines in output and sharp increases in unemployment, but (at least as popularly reported) sharp rebounds from the trough.

Other comments from the paper:

The housing price decline experienced by the United States to date during the current episode (almost 28 percent according to the Case–Shiller index) is already more than twice that registered in the U.S. during the Great Depression..

It is interesting to note …that when it comes to banking crises, the emerging markets, particularly those in Asia, seem to do better in terms of unemployment than do the advanced economies. While there are well-known data issues in comparing unemployment rates across countries, 3 the relatively poor performance in advanced countries suggests the possibility that greater (downward) wage flexibility in emerging markets may help cushion employment during periods of severe economic distress….

How relevant are historical benchmarks for assessing the trajectory of the current global financial crisis? On the one hand, the authorities today have arguably more flexible monetary policy frameworks, thanks particularly to a less rigid global exchange rate regime. Some central banks have already shown an aggressiveness to act that was notably absent in the 1930s, or in the latter-day Japanese experience. On the other hand, one would be wise not to push too far the conceit that we are smarter than our predecessors. A few years back many people would have said that improvements in financial engineering had done much to tame the business cycle and limit the risk of financial contagion.

Since the onset of the current crisis, asset prices have tumbled in the United States and elsewhere along the tracks lain down by historical precedent…..The global nature of the crisis will make it far more difficult for many countries to grow their way out through higher exports, or to smooth the consumption effects through foreign borrowing. In such circumstances, the recent lull in sovereign defaults is likely to come to an end.

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  1. artichoke

    So it’s time for a housing rebound? Maybe so, the mortgage stimulus is in the pipeline, and Obama may do more. On the other hand, housing may not have been overbuilt in the late 20’s.

    Regarding the “Krugman 12/23/08 vs. Krugman 12/24/08”, I would say there’s nothing there. As any true “rocket scientist” can attest, use of sophisticated tools does not eliminate the element of the unknown. In fact a _good_ rocket scientist is all too aware of the unknown.

  2. macndub

    Reinhart and Rogoff are awesome.

    I was just rereading their paper on voxeu from April: a brief history of financial crises since 1800. It’s been one reason that I support a massive stimulus package. The way I see it, a devaluation of the USD and default of US debt is inevitable, so the government might as well support domestic demand in the hope of softening the burden.

    Like Balin at Moria, there is no way out.

    The real per-capita GDP decline is measured in PPP in the presentation, taking currency devaluation out of the picture. That’s… scary.

  3. Anonymous

    The interesting part that is not stated in the study is that governments don’t govern out of thin air, but have to respond to political forces around them.

    The forces, at least prior to “regime change”, are overwhelmingly biased in favor of the existing, entrenched interests.

    Thus, it is extremely difficult to direct spending except to the proven, and politically expedient ones of maintaining services, or building things that may not do any good (like more bridges to nowhere).


  4. Anonymous

    I concur with ‘macndub’ the world currency defaulting is not a side note as an unknown in this writeup.

    An ‘L’ bottoming as the US pays off debt issued on a worldwide scale could run decades while slow or no growth affects the rest of the nations.

    The US stock markets rising due to liquidity being pumped into the system is outside the realm of meaningful recovery.

  5. Anonymous

    Yves, one correction for you — you not quite right in saying that debt rises by 86% of GDP. What the paper says is that real public debt rises by 86%…period (relative to itself, not relative to GDP).

    Thanks so much for posting this paper, it is wonderful, and I am a devoted reader of your blog.

  6. Anonymous

    Sorry all. I can’t see a way we can grow out of this mess, its just fallacy to think we can flog a dead horse into pulling the cart any further.

    I want to hear about new plan, not just defining the corpse back to life. How can we just consume our selves out of every problem. Hell the market is betting on flys racing up the wall now days.

    Increase debt, take on more and more, the universe may be infinite but we are not, are we clinging to a past that no longer serves us.

    The Human race is at its apogee, we now cover the planet and impact it in ways never before in its history. Our arrogance is appalling, no wonder the best minds in social history talk of a bleak future for our race. If its the planet or us i choose the planet and we will fade from time’s memory, hopefully the next intelligent species does a better job, they won’t have to work to hard at it.

    When you live close to the land it teaches you to live with in it and not to over whelm it or you will pay the price. Our currant model ignores this simple truth. We get so wide eyed at our accomplishments and forget the simple rules to life. Don’t over do it, no matter the short term consequences. We bring about the extinction of thousands of plant and animal species every year and for what.

    Many would be surprised to find out how hard and fast many of mankind’s civilizations have crashed and dissipated to lesser status, after a brutal period.


  7. Anonymous


    Guess what the last bubble to pop will be?

    Look in the mirror.

    War (middle east), Famine (peak soil), Plague (bird flu; AIDS), and Pestilence (bees dying off). They’re all just over the horizon.

    I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for it. Some things are worth dying for and this is one of them.

  8. Richard Kline

    Concerning GDP declines averaging 9% in the summary examples, one reason of course is that GDP in the immediate pre-bust period is frothed up to unrealistic, money-chasing-money numbers. Part of the collapse is just a snap-down to a more realistic baseline.

    Concerning the relatively superior performance of emerging economies with regard to crisis employment maintenance, emerging economies of course have higher, low-productivity labor components, including a good deal of near-subsistence agriculture. So part of the labor retention lies in the fact that part-time, sweat of the brow labor soaks up unoccupied hands; not very productive, but enough to keep some people fed. In developed economies, the equivalent would be drones sitting in cubicles with no power cords connected and nothing to do: who would pay for that? A great deal of how bad (or not) our next 2+ years will be lies in where unemployment goes in the US. Demand makes the money-world go round. The worst is all but surely yet to even come into view, here.

    Anon D,: "The forces, at least prior to "regime change", are overwhelmingly biased in favor of the existing, entrenched interests." Which is why we, in the US, have poured hundreds of billions into the lime pit full of rotting, undead, zombies called the major banks. We have, for the moment, prevented the collapse of the banking system, but 'recovery' with all of those howlers still squirming is out of the question.

    Note the 55% average decline in equities. And so on, and so on, but anyone thinking that there will be _any_ 'recovery' in 09 is huffing gas, and I don't mean nitrous. Come 10, a sustainable bottom might be in—notably lower that where we are in Jan 09, that's my view. R. & R. detail what folks can't get their heads around: real financial crashes take _time_ to work their effects. When the media talks 'crash,' they seem to think of the 87 'crash' where most of the real economy kept on ticking. In a Crash 'crash,' the gears and weights come popping out of the clock, and it takes awhile to build a new one. For the most part, the first year of response by the public authorities from Aug 07 to Sep 08 was largely wasted effort, sandbagging a dyke which was overtopped, undermined, with the crest of failures yet to come. We have this final year of wasted puffery to thank Dubya and Co. for.

  9. mmckinl

    “They (Economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff) have released a summary of a presentation that they will present this weekend at the AEA conference. It’s refreshingly straightforward, and offers some sobering implications for our current. mess. ”

    One can only hope that economists of all stripes wake the f up. We are far beyond “Magneto Trouble”.

    We need far reaching remedies including:

    A Bank Holiday ala FDR to write off debt, rationalize $500 trillions in derivatives and close insolvent banks while opening public banks.

    A Public Central Bank, that creates currency and credit without debt and that profits the Treasury and the public, not just bankers.

    Medicare for All to re-capitalize both the public and private sectors as well as put a floor under the population.

    Without bold steps such as these the future is very Japanese, but without the savings and trade surplus, in other words ~ bleak.

  10. Anonymous

    So that 35 percent decline in housing is in addition to any pricing corrections, which would suggest house prices could fall by 75 percent? That 35 percent incidentally looks like being calculated using data which includes ongoing declines. Looking at the following housing declines only Spain 1977, Norway 1987, Finland, 1991, Sweden, 1991, and Japan, 1992 (i.e. recent developed country ones) would give an average nearer to 40 percent. Doing the same for unemployment gives an average drop in employment of around 10 percent. The following statement from the report says a lot about the comparisons though.

    Notably, during the current cycle, Iceland and Austria have already experienced peak-to-trough equity price declines far exceeding the average of the historical comparison group.

    I am just not convinced that looking at the past for clues will tell the whole picture. The report identifies particular types of crisis, whether financial, housing related, or price shock and does very little to explain what happens when you get all 3 types in close proximity. Nor does it differentiate between local and global recessions. Government borrowing is normally freely available during a localised recession but is constrained for weaker economies during a global recession. It also quite clear that if GMAC is going to lend at 0 percent finance to those with FICO scores at 620 (i.e. low credit scores) then the argument that the US is a developed country starts to weaken and the prognosis darkens.

  11. Darcy

    Life demands growth and consumption its hardwired into every organisms DNA. I very much doubt that the next dominant species will be any different.
    The “Great Silence” of space despite the inevitably of the emergence of life and consciousness is another sign of this. Species wink in and out of existence, and any message received is probably an SOS or suicide note.
    Capitalism and its aping of nature, i.e. accumulation of resources and survival of the fittest, follows the same busts and booms. It works and feels best for us because it fits our DNA. Communism failed because it doesnt. If humanities consciousness experiment is not to be another snuffed candle we need to fix our addictive and selfish DNA.

    Mechanisation of agriculture and industry 70 years ago provided for our real needs. This should have liberated us from most of our need to work but instead we seem to be working harder and harder and for what purpose. We should be reading and learning, enjoying social connections, creating great works of art, adding to human knowledge, teaching our young and enjoying life. This utopian vision is possible, but it does challenge a few of the existing power structures and doesnt feel right to our DNA (accumulate consume and screw).

    Brainwashing programs for kids as carefully designed as the toy adverts they watch and/or chemical or genetic modification of our altruism response is what we should be attempting. Get to the root of the problem or like the bailouts we are just papering over the cracks before the next bust.

    If we dont act humanities epitaph may read.
    “Suicide – handbag fetishist” RIP

  12. Anonymous


    The very first message any intelligent species beams into space is, “Hello? Anyone out there? We are here, and let us list some of our cultural achievements…”

    The next few messages are attempted religious conversions and MLM scams.

    Then come the requests for bailouts – miracle technologies, natural resources, anything that’ll help with the temporary problems.

    Then, threats from the military dictatorship.

    Then silence.

  13. Anonymous

    “accumulate consume and screw”

    The first two aren’t part of our DNA, they’re part of our culture. Cultures that support materialism seem to be more ‘fit’, reproductively speaking, than those that don’t because the rampant consumption in cultures like ours creates massive production capacity to be utilized in periods of war (conquest)… In other words the culture panders to our worst instincts and nurtures them in order to propagate itself.

    A “return to traditional values”, which is a code phrase meaning a religious superstate, won’t do doodly squat because part of those values involves Malthusian reproduction (Catholicism).

    We could get out of this mess with some deep learning. If some can survive this time and pass the lessons on, the mistakes will become part of our cultural DNA. Future societies could be wiser, not necessarily more techologically sophisticated. If.

  14. Darcy

    Anon 5.34am
    Accumulation of resources is an inherited drive not cultural. For males it enables him to support more mates and children. Females a better chance that their children prosper. This is hardwired.

    The dopamine “reward” high from shopping consumption is the same we would receive from coming back with bush meat or a useful tool way back when.

    We are chemically addicted and enslaved by our genes. Any culture that panders to these needs will tend to be more stable and productive.

    We could become wiser, but history shows a very familiar pattern.

  15. Anonymous

    To those that replied to my post.

    Unlike others creatures of this world past and present, “WE” have the ability to change the way we think/perspective the universe/home. We are, as far as we know the only children of this universe, that can perceive its secrets/wonder

    Yes their maybe others, I think so. But until we confirm that fact, lets not put our selves to the blade of self inflected extinction or crippling diminished capability, Easter Island culture.

    The strongest usually are the first to die off as they are too specific in their nature and can not adapt fast enough to rapidly changing conditions, specialists. Generalist species tend to have broad enough character to adapt and have a chance to pass on traits which insure their survival.

    We have become the “specialist species” and for all of our works/knowledge, we befoul our chances at true greatness. These years to come are going to be the hardest that we have yet to experienced in all of our history. We have achieved global civilization unlike all before us. So we all suffer each others actions in quicker time frames/no time buffer/immediate.

    The leaders of the future need to forgo the placating to the uniformed herd, sorry to much at stake, some generation will have to bite the bullet some day. On that line of thought, communism, socialism and democracy are a sham as none has ever toed the logy line but lived as a bastard of it.

    Look at our socialist bail out, Americans look pretty OK with it now faced with loss of that which they love, accumulated wealth, with out thought to the future generations. Its like a plea bargain with the DA, humans will pick the least painful of choices, even if they are not/guilty.

    For all mankind’s works, where is the reward, the benefits of our forefathers toil. We could reduce demand, work less, preserve all life upon this world, LEARN before we leap.

    My point is we choose not too. We become that to which we were born too with out introspection, tribal acceptance. We need more than ever to accept that we all are human and come to grips with that one simple fact, then decide how to proceed with a view to the future.

    If I have offended anyone beliefs, I’m sorry for I only wish beneficial interaction. To Yves and Company I see this is the biggest challenge to mankind date.

    This is the perfect storm, all the factors are there. The mass is huge, conflicting beliefs in what mankind’s role is on this planet, resources, diminishing area for expansion, rapidly changing global conditions(who cares if its man made or not, its coming.), supercharged religious beliefs, FOOD availability (just because you can go to the shops doesn’t mean everyone can), the hyper activity of mankind, do to faster means of interaction between humans (efficacy), etc, the velocity is increasing at a astonishing rate. Buy the time humanity wakes up and realizes the danger its going to be to late as we are too reactionary (after the fact) and move with out fore thought to are actions.

    I for one don’t believe we have to accept every thing on face value just because we were born to it.

    skippy, out of the box.

  16. SactoMan01

    I think many of these analysis are based on the fact that nobody has bothered to look at the biggest reason why economic growth can stagnate: our income tax system.

    Because by definition income taxes tend to discourage savings and investment, that can severely warp economic decisions, forcing the need for debt financing to get economically ahead. To break this cycle, we should tax consumption, not income, which means consumers can save up for a “nest egg” and/or save up to buy a big-ticket item like a home or automobile and producers can save up a cash reserve in case of bad economic times and/or invest in new equipment/training to advance the business without worrying about the complications of the income tax.

    FairTax, one of the most thought-out and researched forms of a national consumption tax, should be the starting point for a massive change in taxation that will encourage savings and investment for the future, something so desperately needed now.

  17. donebenson

    I am currently reading Skidelsky's magnificent 3 vol. biography of Keynes. In it he points out how pessimistic Keynes was in the early 20's about Europe being able to maintain [or regain] it's prior to 1914 standard of living, given the economic destruction of WWI, and the screwed up economic & political responses to the war.

    As Niall Ferguson has equated our time to be in some ways similar to WWI [in terms of economic destruction], the ignoring of Ken Rogoff's analysis by our gov't raises the reality of a lower standard of living going forward, -perhaps described as our own kind of [Japan's] lost decade.

  18. Anonymous

    I have to say we might possibly be getting a bit overwrought here. Let us recall that there are a lot of busts in this database and, to my knowledge, none of them have resulted in the extinction of mankind.

  19. wintermute

    Stimulus plans and bailouts are not only delaying the inevitable – but making the inevitable worse.

    That is why we are faced with depression now – having delayed the recession which was due in 2000.

    a must read:

    Monetary Flat Spin

  20. Anonymous

    “Because by definition income taxes tend to discourage savings and investment, that can severely warp economic decisions, forcing the need for debt financing to get economically ahead.”

    The Reagan-thru-Bush supply side disaster has shown this statement to be true with slight modification:

    The need for debt financing to get economically ahead to recover lost revenues caused by income tax cuts for the wealthy, discourage savings and investment because, by definition, they severely warp economic decisions.

  21. Anonymous

    “The global nature of the crisis will make it far more difficult for many countries to grow their
    way out through higher exports, or to smooth the consumption effects through foreign borrowing. In such circumstances, the recent lull in sovereign defaults is likely to come to an end. “

    They seem to be predicing the next shoe to drop. IMO, China is more vulnerable to the Japanese lost decade and the US Great Depression. Consumption in the US will sag and a de facto buy American psychology will take hold even without official trade management measures.

  22. Anthony Dadlani

    The economy is far from getting back into “normal mode”. I think most people would agree that there is no quick fix, however I do feel the equity markets are a leading indicator and they do normally bounce back before “main street” does.

    I would be buying if I was in cash.

    I am a contributor on

  23. Anonymous

    Re Monetary Flat Spin – I think the author, Denninger, is a lot more knowledgeable than many so-called experts who are better known. Unfortunately, he is often overwrought and expresses himself crudely. This detracts from his message and that’s a shame.

  24. Darcy

    There are many busts in the database and many have been lethal on a local scale. Easter island is a perfect example. Unfortunately we have now become numerous enough to affect the planet’s environment at a global level. We are now a planetary Easter island and can see the limits of our continued growth a little more clearly every day. This is just dawning on us as it did the islanders. Someone chopped down the last tree on the island and we have to prevent ourselves from doing the same.

    Acceptance that we are a giant colony of barely sane chimps with homicidal tendencies, clinging to a small and vulnerable rock spinning around an enormous nuclear reactor in the depths of space, and that we will all die at some point (maybe even tomorrow) is scary. Denial and being overly optimistic has to be hard wired into us to get us through each day. Look at this present bust, we all wanted to believe, it could never be that bad. In fact the reality was much worse. We REALLY DONT WANT TO KNOW.

    Our biology does not excuse our actions now that we know what we are and what shapes our drives. Culture enables us to move beyond our biology. We have to globally face this truth and develop measures to contain or control this part of us. We need a new global culture that penalises growth and rewards sharing and equality. Nearly every culture to date has relied on permagrowth, whether reproductive, commercial or militaristic.

    We need to accept and change or we WILL mega perish.

  25. Anonymous

    Brainwashing programs for kids as carefully designed as the toy adverts

    LOL! How can someone say something like that and not think of compulsory schooling as the same thing?

    I remember being in junior high in the middle of stagflation. The topic in US History class: why laissez-faire is bad. Right in the middle of stagflation which is the most obvious refutation of Keynesianism the brainwashing factory is still trying to shove Keynesianism down the throats of unsuspecting children.


    The author is right on target!!

    With real unemployment continuing to rise, corporate and private bankruptcies spiking, earnings levels eroding tremendously, asset values tumbling, and credit severely restricted, the “tide” must first recede before it turns and begins to improve. Things are continuing to get worse. Thus, they can not, on average, get better. We must wait and then let the tide reverse.

    In addition to coordinated intervention by the governments and cooperation from our financial institutions, we must be patient….
    The challenge is to financially survive while being patient.
    See for Guru’s comment and other supporting information and news.

  27. Anonymous

    Darcy: We need to accept and change or we WILL mega perish.

    There is enough energy on this planet to sustain all of humanity at standards of living for as long as we choose to live on it.

    This is why the entire business of Easter Island and other extrapolations from previous collapses (c.f. Tainter et al) is not especially useful for predicting the future.

    Heck, if we accepted your theory about DNA being some kind of grow-or-die scheme, then this planet would either have run out of the limited raw materials four billion years ago when DNA made it’s appearance, or would be totally encrusted with cyanobacteria and other simple life.

    That we are here, billions of year s and trillions of generations later, surrounded by a cacophony of life, talking about it all, suggests that your models are deeply flawed.

  28. wintermute

    Anon 10:08 – I agree your point.
    That is why Yves Smith and Michael Shedlock are a cut above the rest. They are not only highly knowledgeable but express themselves in a consistently clear and level-headed basis.

  29. Carlosjii

    A few essential tenets of my views

    1. We are witnessing the end of the American Empire – the US will rejoin the 8 or 10 wealthiest nations at about the mid-point of the prosperity scale – AFTER repaying its long-standing karmic debts of empire – in about 2050. The period from now – 2008 – until then will be one of substantial turbulence as the US adjusts to a much lower standard of living.

    2. The demise of the US dollar as an international purchasing medium. For periods of time, in a time perhaps not far off, NO amount of US dollars or its successor will be able to purchase gold.

    3. An impending large scale military defeat. Historically, when empires end they do so with large military defeats.

    4. The American Experiment in Liberty and Democracy is over and we have already reverted back to the much more normal style of governance the human condition have put upon themselves over the millennia – a tyranny of the State.

  30. mmckinl

    SactoMan01 said…
    “I think many of these analysis are based on the fact that nobody has bothered to look at the biggest reason why economic growth can stagnate: our income tax system.”

    You are conflating growth with investment and it is not even clear that lower taxes would be invested but pay down personal debt.

    We don’t need lower taxes on the investor class right now because we are over invested in business. To make matters worse much of this investment is for consumption not production.

    We need higher taxes on the well to do to pay for government programs and help pay down the national debt.

  31. wunsacon

    anonymous @ January 2, 2009 11:36 AM

    >> Heck, if we accepted your theory about DNA being some kind of grow-or-die scheme, then this planet would either have run out of the limited raw materials four billion years ago when DNA made it's appearance.

    It takes a lot, lot longer to exhaust a planet full of resources than to exhaust the fresh water on a small island with no snowpack, no rivers, and little rainfall.

    >> That we are here, billions of year s and trillions of generations later, surrounded by a cacophony of life, talking about it all, suggests that your models are deeply flawed.

    Were there any extinctions along the way??

    After humans disappeared from Easter Island, other life continued.

    Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it can't or won't. And the less worried people are about it, the more likely it happens. That's why optimists scare me.

    Darcy, that was some great writing/thinking.

  32. Tenletters

    I don’t see coyotes, humans, or field mice going extinct anytime soon, barring a .5k meteorite. Drastic reductions in populations and elimination of current standards of living are quite possible. But total extinction of advanced, fecund, burrowing, omnivorously generalist mammals with advanced social structures? No way. The placenta isn’t going down that easy.

  33. Anonymous

    Earth is our Easter Island. Space colonization isn’t the answer. Getting a person off planet is never going to be cheaper than an orgasm.

  34. Anonymous

    It takes a lot, lot longer to exhaust a planet full of resources than to exhaust the fresh water on a small island with no snowpack, no rivers, and little rainfall.

    Regardless, under Darcy’s DNA-as-cancer theory, the process would have run to completion billions of years ago.

    Were there any extinctions along the way??

    We are talking about DNA, are we not? The stuff still seems to be around. What does this suggest about Darcy’s model? Why should the human kind of DNA be any worse than the sort you find in cyanobacteria? What does _that_ suggest about Darcy?

    Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t. And the less worried people are about it, the more likely it happens. That’s why optimists scare me.

    As far as I am concerned, pessimists are the enemies of humanity, if not life itself; I’ll start taking their “worry” more seriously when they start killing themselves. But what’s the rush? As before, previous collapses that you fret about were ultimately due to a lack of of energy. We now know of energy sources that can power civilization at current and wildly optimistic projections for essentially as long as we choose to live on Earth.

    In short, if this planet sustains a global Easter Island, it won’t because of human economic growth, lack of resources, or similar neo-Malthusian claptrap.

  35. Anonymous

    Getting a person off planet is never going to be cheaper than an orgasm.

    Low earth orbit: 8000m/s. That’s 32MJ per kilogram of energy, which, interestingly enough, is about a litre’s worth of gasoline. To get this person off the planet, you’d need about a typical car-tank full of gasoline in energy (at perfect conversion).

    Hm. How much was Spitzer paying for his orgasms?

  36. Anonymous

    Spent New Years in Vegas with the rest of the pleasure seekers. The town was packed, the malls were packed, the corporate jets were in town in a big way. It was boom time all over again. So much for recession so much for evolving…give us $1.00 gas and our credit cards and get out the way. WTF over?

  37. Darcy

    I was not suggesting that life or homo sapiens will go extinct. Life is obviously very resilient and survives pretty much anything you throw at it. It does bounce back in another form. Civilisation, population and ecosystem collapse is however entirely possible and has happened numerous times before.

    New Orleans should have reminded us all how quickly we can fall back to a barbarised state when we depend on complicated supply chains for everything we need to live. I doubt any of us want to return to this kind of world.

    The more layers of complication and sophistication the more vulnerable we become if these become disrupted. Globalisation and interdependence does not reduce the risk it increases it re: the recent securitisation fallacy.

    In our huge urbanised numbers it only takes two bad harvests globally for us to feel hunger and social disorder to follow. We had a sniff of that last year. A volcano, meterorite or a GHG induced climate tipping point could do this, and the geological record is filled with such events.

    Yes there is limitless energy, but not limitless soil and water in the right places. Our urban and virtual lives have distanced us from this fact. We are still dependent on plants to survive, and growing them in more variable weather, on salinised and eroding soils is hard work, even before sea levels swamp the most productive river deltas.

    A massive die off in South and East Asia is highly likely in the foreseeable future unless we address their sustainability problems – soil erosion, soil salinisation, drying up of snow/glacier melt from the himalayas, sea level rise.

    We have been mining the soil (erosion and salinisation) burning the forests, poisoning our oceans (rising acidity from CO2, anoxic dead zones, garbage vortex’s and fish filled with PCB, Dioxins and heavy metals etc) and polluting our atmosphere. We have not begun to address our “Tragedy of the Commons”. Believing that science will fix all our mess is wishful thinking akin to a religion and makes us no better that the head worshippers on Easter. We need to stop making the mess.

    The reality is ALL of humanity could lead productive, healthy, educated and fulfilling lives if we became less selfish and realised we all have an equal stake in this planet and an equal share in its resources. Whilst this inequality exists no settlement can be reached and state will exploit state, and mess will pile on mess.

    I would like to be wrong.

  38. Anonymous

    Ditto Darcy,

    What has transpired to get us here is in the past, but now we know/have the facts about our activity’s and their increasing ramifications short and long term. These man-made problems can be corrected, but many see no reason to change their behaver, I’m not dead yet, don’t feel the pain.

    Very selfish if you ask me, not to adjust ones lifestyle, consumption to benefit all.


  39. Anonymous


    might be helpful to differentiate between precapitalist and capitalist sets of social relations, which are also those relations which guide societies’ material reproduction of themselves.


    as someone said moreless 140 years ago, we create history but not just as we like.
    or, constraints accumulate ‘behind our backs’.

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