The festival of Lammas, and tales from the dark side

Lammas (Anglo-Saxon “loaf-mass”) is the first harvest festival of the year, that of the grain which ripens first. It’s probably jumping the gun a little this year and I don’t know what they’d have made of winter wheat back in the day 😉

ripe grain
picture taken in July 2009, it’s a bit on the drag this year

Lammas was also the time of odd intevals likethe ritual of hand-fasting, a trial marriage which only became a commitment after a year and a day, presumably Aug 2 the next year 😉

In the tradition of odd intervals, it’s been a year and a month since I stopped working, and it’s been good.  In a long thread on MSE on planning for retirement, the thought came to me that there are many assumptions people make about when they expect to retire. One of them is they project their future self and their job into the future. I was reminded of that when I came across a quote from MSE’s dlorde

I found that too – three years in and spending far less than I’d imagined. This is because, once I broke free of the work ethic, I discovered I no longer needed to drink away the stress, or buy stuff just to feel the work was worth it, or to get away whenever possible and splash cash on relaxing, etc.

Because I’m relaxed now, I’m a nicer person; I smile a lot and say ‘hello’ to people in the street, I chat with shop assistants. I cook more for myself than I go out to eat, I walk a lot, and I savour the coffee and the roses because I’ve got the time. These things cost very little, but hugely affect quality of life.

Many of the things I dreamed I’d do when retired, I don’t really feel like doing anymore; they were the escapist dreams of a 9-5 commuter…

It reminded me of the dark side. I see people planning to switch to part-time, gradual retirement, and lots of best-laid plans. The problem is that if you are going to retire early, you need to either be lucky, or you need to start early, or suck it up and live less large today to live larger tomorrow. Living large isn’t all about money. As dlorde summed up so well, a lot of spending is substituting for the rotten experience of the workplace. Out the rotten experience, and much of that compensatory spending is unneccessary.

Many people get this right, they plan carefully, and implement the plan. I envy them in some ways, but I’d say that planning to work to 67 or 70 or whatever is getting more hazardous now.

Where is the world of work going? There’s a power shift, and it doesn’t favour you in general.

The world of work is changing, and power is shifting from labour to capital, as globalisation allows firms to arbitrage production to the lowest-cost. What this means for people in rich countries is they will have to move up the value chain – that means working smarter or harder, or both. The trouble with this, is that we aren’t making people any cleverer, and the result is rising unemployment – and advanced economy just can’t really use people of less than stellar talent in a global workforce. Lest I become charged with being one of those old gits that loves the existence of crap jobs, let me expand, at the risk of being hated by some people.

An advanced economy just can’t employ an increasingly large segment of the population, who just aren’t bright enough, or driven enough.

the distribution of intelligence in humans as measured by IQ
the distribution of intelligence in humans as measured by IQ. IQ is proxy for many human characteristics. Top footballers aren’t noted for brains, but football talent follows a similar distribution – there are very few outstanding compared to the acceptably competent. The Premier League wants the outstanding, not the competent, just as Google does in the area of computing smarts.

Basically, if you’re in a job that requires a particular human skill and you are in the lower 74% of the distribution then the world of work will slowly grind you out of the workforce over the coming 40 years, unless some political changes are made. This particular chart is from these guys [ref]Their software sounds like arrant snake-oil. While you can coach for IQ tests – people do this for school tests and  and I did for the eleven plus (though it wasn’t allowed to be called the 11+ at the time)  I’ve never seen people become smarter at problem-solving in new situations in my entire career, though experience obviously makes you more skilled in action in specific areas. Some types of drug addictions can turn the clever into shit-for-brains sadly, but the other ways doesn’t happen IMO.[/ref] Imagine the work needle starting from the left-hand side in pre-industrial time. Historically, there was space in the workplace for the genuinely dumb, as long as they were strong, and indeed limited capacity in the workplace to use hyperintelligence. As time goes by the needle moves to the right – in the 1950s there was still plenty of work for those of average ability. Nowadays, however, firms like Google are probably looking towards the rightmost quarter. There is less space for hod-carriers in the modern workforce, even on building sites. I saw them all the time as a kid on building sites – when I worked on the Olympics I didn’t see one.

People start to call you all sorts of names when you dredge out images like that so I’ll stop there, FWIW an ermine is not bright enough to enter MENSA to I haven’t got a huge axe to grind. The distribution applies to a lot of human skills, not just general problem-solving. The distribution of good salesmen probably follows a similar distribution and you don’t have to be clever to be a salesman, though being a great showman doesn’t hurt. I’m in the 2% or worse on the wrong side of the bell curve as far as that skill is concerned. Although it’s become politically incorrect to say human talents vary, the beating heart of capitalism doesn’t give a damn. What it wants is the 0.1% on the right-hand side of the bell, and it’s prepared to pay them all the money that it would have had to pay the remaining 99.9% of workers in days of yore, when it wasn’t able to draw upon a global workforce and shift stuff and information across the world at low cost. Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism is illuminating. I have it on order at the library but from Amazon’s preview you can get a good inkling of the principles.

It’s one of those HR bullshit platitudes that people are a firm’s greatest asset, but it starts to become true as long as the firm can get rid of the 99.9% of also-rans which, with a global workforce, includes me, and, dare I suggest it, dear First World reader, possibly you too…

The power shift t0 capital is seen in various places. For instance,  the rise of zero-hour contracts. These wouldn’t be so bad if the zero-hours commitment went both ways – if the company had a job going and rang you up, but you could just tell them to piss off, you were busy working for someone else who would give you work, but it doesn’t seem to be that way. Zero-hours contracts seem to give the employers the right to bond your potential labour by forbidding you to work for someone else, while not guaranteeing you any pay. Why the second word of people’s response isn’t ‘off’ beats me. Years ago a young ermine worked in the City as a kitchen porter and table-clearer, where you’d rock up to the agency early in the morning as see if there was work. If there was and you could get into line, then you had work for the day, if not you at least could do something else with it.

UK labour productivity - falling according to the ONS
UK labour productivity – falling according to the ONS

Zero-hours contracts aren’t the only symptom – apart from the increased unemployment [ref]You must add increased economic inactivity of those of working age to unemployment, and unemployment doesn’t reflect underemployment though the latter is devilishly hard to track – I am economically inactive though not underemployed[/ref]- that is an obvious symptom, workers are accepting lower pay settlements, and productivity is falling in the UK because labour is becoming cheaper. The good side of that is that unemployment isn’t as high as it would otherwise be, because employers don’t have to sweat the asset so much. The bad side is Britain is turning into a low-wage economy for more people as wages fall in real terms.

UK underemployemtn and unemployment
UK underemployment and unemployment

The horrendously twisted wreckage that Britain’s private old age pension provision has become is another sign of the shifting balance to capital. When I started at The Firm, they had to offer a decent pension scheme as part of the overall package to attract enough starry-eyed young pups out into the sticks. They were busy degrading the quality of it by the time I left, indeed if they could have clawed back accrued benefits I’m sure they would.

The good news part of this story is that if you are part of the 1% particularly skilled in any employable skillset you will make hay and be far better off that you would have been historically, because improved communications let you take your skills to the marketplace better, and probably if you’re in the upper 5% you will do okay for a while though I wouldn’t bet on 40 years. The winner-takes all effect is not as bad as the 99%  Occupy grouched about because there are a range of non-overlapping skills that you can be the 1% of. Neverthess, it’s not good news for an awful lot of people.

Now there are political solutions to some of this. The 21 hour work week advocated by the NEF might be a much better solution to the question ‘what does a human-friendly economy look like’. We would have half as much stuff and goods and services like experience days balloon flights and city breaks to the Med to get ratarsed (because we would all be working half time, natch), but to be honest we have far too much plastic shit and pseudy wastes of time in the country as it is IMO. One of the things I discovered in retiring is that a lot of the stuff I looked forward to doing didn’t mean anything to me, it was the fevered dreams of a cube drone. So I didn’t do it, and dropped some of the cash I didn’t spend onto the mad, bad desparation that is a European ETF because at least the ride will be interesting 😉 I still didn’t find myself short of entertainment over the last year…

For all the people about to go red in the face and spit bricks about the idea of a shorter working week, one of the things that an awful lot of people in the UK still want to do is have children. It’s something that really matters to them. Way back in the 1970s and 80s, when women entered the workforce, we as a society made a Faustian pact with capitalism. There were two ways things could have gone. One would be that men could have stepped back from the workforce a bit, resulting in that NEF 21 hour week across the board. People would get to see their children growing up, and drop them off at school, but they wouldn’t have had so many toys, DVDs and all the other surprisingly high-tech junk that you see in skips some times.

What we actually seem to have done is pat ourselves on the back, high-five it and tell ourselves ‘we’re rich’ because twice as much money was entering our households. And immediately went on a bender, outbidding each other on houses resulting in high house prices, because God forbid that we’d use that extra money to go on holiday to do something fun with it, at least if we increase the price tag on our houses we can say we have a higher net worth [ref]I am of the opinion that my house isn’t part of my net worth but I’m in the minority. Unlike every other Briton, high house prices don’t make me feel richer[/ref]. Now that we’ve stowed the extra money into bricks and mortar, and buying more consumer Stuff, we now have to go out to work to pay other people to look after the children, particularly in the school holidays when the schools aren’t doing that job for us. Given that having chidren is something that an awful lot of people want to do, this seems to be a rum old way to run an economy. But that’s what we did. We have boarding kennels and catteries for our pets when we go on holiday, and summer camps for the kids while we’re stuck at work, earning the extra money to pay for the summer camps and the kids’  iPads.

If somebody had sat down and designed this system we’d have collectively run them out of town for taking the piss but it just sort of happened that way, as a result of us all realising “Hey, we can now buy Twice as much consumer gear, so lets go out and do that”.  We do have a lot more Stuff and Services – capitalism delivered the goods on the deal, just like Faust’s counterparty. When I had my house rewired ten years ago, I had to double the number of power sockets, despite the fact there were only two of us in a three-bed home. The families that occupied it in the decades before just didn’t have as much stuff as we did – and I’m nowhere near the high end of that spectrum!

Our working lives have also become far more complex. Although it lacks drama, the old fashioned model that Obama called out of being able to join a company and stay with it for most of your working life made it easier to plan one’s finances. On the debt front, fewer people had mortgages in the 1960s and 1970s, and consumer debt didn’t exist in the UK. People bought consumer durables on hire-purchase. Default on that and you lost your TV, and that was the end of it, the debt wasn’t endlessly sold on, and Wonga just didn’t exist[ref]I believe loan sharks did exist, but they plied their trade in person, along with the threats of breaking your legs if you failed to pay up[/ref].

One of the early steps on the road to perdition
One of the early steps on the road to perdition. Doesn’t hindsight make this ad copy look positively criminal in the incitement to live beyond our means? Were the regulators sleeping at the switch?

In 1966 Barclaycard was issued, followed in 1972 by Access, which took the waiting out of wanting, and we were done for.  It seems now that more than half of all Britons are seriously up shit street with their finances, from a combination of the power shift towards capital, the increasing complexity of finacial life, the fact that for over two decades in a child-centric world people don’t seem to learn that to have more later sometimes you must have less now. I look around Britain and what I see is a rich country, immeasurably richer than the Britain I grew up in. There’s no good reason why we have to have so much trouble, but we need to learn to have less Stuff in our lives, or at least if we want to have Stuff then save up for it first!

Work has always changed, and you will see a lot of change over a working life. Making a retirement plan assuming work and you won’t change isn’t a recipe for success. I was caught by the tail end of work changing. I’d like to think that a young ermine starting, say at 23 in 2013 would be able to make a success of it. But I’m not sure – although I am to the right half of that bell curve I’m not sure I’m smart enough to compete with the rest of the world. Being hypothetically thirty years younger means hopefully I would have a more entrepreneurial attitude to work. But would it be as entrepreneurial as Ha-Joon Chang’s developing world entrepreneurs? I’d have the rule of law, and property rights on my side, and let’s not underestimate that. But arrayed against me I’d have the winner-takes-all effect, a much wider base of competing labour, very high running costs and those housing costs. Plus an education system that seems to value my self-esteem at the expense of honest assessment. I wouldn’t have gone to university – I just wouldn’t have taken the risk. And whaddya expect if you charge people to go to university – they aren’t going to fail too many people are they, otherwise they have fewer applicants, which hits the bottom line 😉

Where are you going?

It’s not just the world that changes as you get older. You do too, and if you’re going to make retirement plans you have to make some allowances for the change in you. You become a little bit better with people, less of an arrogant twat hopefully as some of the rough corners get knocked off, but also less tolerant of crap as you get older. I see this in many areas of life – in my 20s I was prepared to live in a London bedsit with a shower and toilet shared with the rest bedsitters occupying that house, it isn’t something I really want to do now.

Beware getting more ornery and cantankerous, and work in a firm for more than ten years and you will have seen every permutation of management Next Great Thing that there is going, and you remember how the Thing That was Going To Sort It All Out the Last Time didn’t work, so when it’s served up again reheated you just don’t believe it. For an engineering facility there seems to be a tidal duality of

  • Increased expertise and focus and tech-specific SWAT teams  (typically in boom times) which leads to  Silos, which then have to be broken down into
  • Horizontal delayering and Flattening the Pyramid , empowering Information. Usually happens in recessions, as reducing the levels of the pyramid stops promotion and persuades people to clear off.

This is a cyclical process that roughly tracks the business cycle. However, as you get older centrifugal force slowly flings you outwards from the core as new blood must be sucked in to feed the Beast by believing the cyclic Next Big Thing. You gain some compensation by rising up the greasy pole as long as you don’t offend too many people. This seems easier for extroverts

So it is with the best laid plans, as Harold Macmillan perhaps didn’t observe when asked what could steer a government off course onto the rocks –

Events, dear boy, events

Or perhaps as Cameron more pithily put it, shit happens.

You may plan to retire at 67 and get all your ducks in a row. But don’t count on it. I don’t know if The Firm had a particular problem with stress, but once something snaps inside it stays broken until enough distance is had from the cause. I am less than halfway through the recovery period, at a guess. I was lucky in that I had unique skills, and was cantankerous enough to tell the oik that tired to off me with a quarter’s pay that he wasn’t offering me enough, and to curse him and the horse he rode in on. Then the people who needed my skills for the Olympics work got his division out of the way. But every time, which was once a quarter, I had to suck it up to the performance management system and justify my existence it needed a major visit to the bottle bank the next week to toss the empties. And then one day in Tesco the image before me broke up into a random array of unrecognisable lines. It’s at times like that that one thinks ‘Self, you have gotten yourself on the wrong track here’

And I only planned to retire at 60, in about seven years’ time. The best laid plans of mice and men, eh 😉 At my leaving do the last line manager I had, who was a decent sort, commended me on leaving on a high – the Olympics work was a great project to go out on. Professionally, yes. Psychologically, I was a husk.

Build some flexibility into your retirement plan. You may one day come to feel that flushing your life away in service to The Man in return for overpriced houses and consumer baubles and special unique one-of-a-kind made up experiences isn’t all that. It’s good to have options at that point.

Everything is set up for a full-time working pattern, from the price of rent and housing to the whole way work is set up. I never understood the attraction of working part-time – it sems to have all the things that are wrong with working combined with less of the money, I’d rather work full-time or not at all. Perhaps those Seventies visionaries were right, but rather than the NEF 21-hour week we end up with the shorter working life. One of the ways of working less is, paradoxically, to retire early. The NEF solution would be much more compatible with the whole having kids scenario, but the trouble is this isn’t a universal desire. The DINKs would work 40 hours, drive up the price of housing and we’d be back where we are now. This either needs a political movement for change, placing an upper limit on working hours, or that needle will scan across the bell curve so only 1% of people end up employed, in which case there may be a revolution.



13 thoughts on “The festival of Lammas, and tales from the dark side”

  1. Hey Ermine ! I really enjoy your blog. Well, I resigned ! Now, I’m looking to go back to doing what I did before: same profession ( unfortunately ) but more realistic expectations. I’m a few years older than you and “hit the wall” career wise. On the upside, although I’m virtually impecunious, I own my own shack, an identical rental shack, a “bush” taxi running up and down the roads of the developing country in which I hope to retire and an acre of land in said country where I hope to build a “chalet” ( with chickens ). I have a dream but now I have to get back to work. I thank God everyday for what I have and for the gift of being on the right hand side of the graph, but you’re right, the grind is becoming even more grinding. It don’t get any easier with age. Great posts !


  2. Great post, as usual, ermine. Just a few points:

    > there are a range of non-overlapping >skills that you can be the 1% of

    I think this range is constantly expanding, so I don’t really buy the “shafted by the bell curve” argument. It’s always been tougher for those to the left, but new opportunities come along and a new lot of people find that they are on the right.

    Historically, zero hours contracts have always existed. In the C19th, much unskilled labour was organised in this way (agriculture, construction, docks, etc).

    Also in the C19th, people stuffed their homes with mass produced tat –just look at Victorian parlour pictures– pointless consumption ain’t new.

    Finally, a thought that may or may not be comforting. In the future much of our “stuff” will be 3D printed and manufacturing will be increasingly reshored back from the far east. The opportunities for locally sourced crap are almost limitless. Jobs will be more and more service oriented, though.


  3. Ermine – you should be Prime Minister!
    Seriously though – a 21 hour working week sounds wonderful but it’ll never happen.
    I usually score an IQ of around 129 so hopefully I can hang on for the 15 – 20 years until I too can do a runner.
    What’s REALLY scary though is that those at the bottom end are all breeding 5-10 equally thick people to replace them – all of which we are having to pay for in benefits. Whilst the brighter ones at the top are having fewer and fewer – because they are brighter.
    I’m not usually too pessimistic about humanities future until I think about things like that.
    I need to slope of to MMM to remind myself of the outrageous benefits of optimism then 😉


  4. Another fascinating post. I followed your link to your earlier post about your upbringing which reminded me of a world I remember well. The era and attitudes you describe coincide with my recollections although I’m a little older than you.

    My parents had the same attitude as yours to debt and HP but were nowhere near as financially savvy. They rented throughout their lives, firstly from private landlords, and later council flats. Where on earth did your father’s awareness of ITs come from ? Share-ownership was about as common as hen’s teeth amongst working class people of that era and investment trusts an order of magnitude rarer!

    So far as employment is concerned, there is a fair amount which is location-tied and cannot be easily exported although labour can be imported. Examples are car maintenance, house-building, hair dressing, tourism, nursing care, looking after the elderly in care homes, electricity generation, public transport, driving delivery vehicles and the hospitality industry to name but a few. I recognise that these areas of employment are unlikely to make anyone rich and some are also vulnerable to robot-substitution but they can provide employment for many people outside the top decile of ability.

    Don’t start me on IQ tests. Have a look at the work by James Flynn on rising IQs through the decades.

    I suspect we will see manufacturing come back to the developed world but probably of necessity when China’s capacity to produce goods for exports diminishes. (Rebalance to consumption, ageing population, pollution, political unrest/collapse etc). Even if that happens, it will be less labour-intensive than the past.

    I do however broadly share your view about the prospects for employment. Analogies with past employment changes such as the displacement of people from agriculture and cottage industries don’t stack up: the new jobs created post-industrial revolution could be done by the vast majority of the populace and robots were not available as an alternative to human labour. Today, new jobs typically are low skill,low paid and part-time for the majority or very highly skilled and well-paid for the minority. I find it very difficult to see where large numbers of well-paid manual jobs are going to be generated even if manufacturing is relocated back to the developed world.

    Maybe we’ll have to get used to a high-tech, high tax subsistence life style.


  5. Hey, nice post – except that I don’t agree with you about part-time working. I love it -I work 2 days a week, but have no commitment to work more weeks than I want to. I get a nice little income, but none of the politics and stress of a full-time job. Oh – and I work from home, so no commute… So long as you can get a good set up on (mostly) your own terms, I think part-time working is fab. I don’t assume it will last forever, but for now it hits the spot for me!


  6. @g – that sound like a great retirement plan, a nice mix of capital and income streams. And presumably the lowering of costs – good luck with shorteing the gap!

    @SG I did wonder about that – some of the jobs I’ve done for the Firm didn’t exist when i started work (network design, digital video – even pro VTR timebase correcters were analogue then) Web eisgners, SOE optimisation, social media whatevers – these were undreamed of then. But these occupations employ very few people compared to a car plant. And that needle drifts implacably to the right…

    The thing which seems different on modern zero-hours contacts is that they are contracts, with a prohibition on getting alternative work in the down times. With historic casual labour you’d turn up on the day and get work or not, you weren’t locked in.

    3D printing eh, it will do well for enclosures and things which don’t depend on materials properties. You may be able to 3D print a gun, but not a knife blade, a useful pair of scissors or a 6 inch nail. Os a composite device like a printed circuit board. It’ll transform product development and manufacture, and sadly proably give a whole new dimension to admen selling custom knick-kancks to make people feel they’re special, but not universally transform physical production IMO. And it’s a field that needs people with artistic talent desperately – nearly all 3d printing I’ve seen has looked ghastly from an aesthetic POV, thoguh it’s not an inherent probelm of the technology 😉

    @GOP My dad had the advantage of coming to London as an adult, so he didn’t grow up with many of the limiting beliefs that working people had. Towards the end of his career he worked for Whitbreads when they were brewing beer in the City, and i recall him coming back and railing that when thecompany gave the employees free shares the first thing most people did was sell them and use them for a holiday – he held on to his and build up a stake.

    My maternal grandfather worked in a bank, It is possible that he also helped Dad understand some of the issues, though I don’t know if they have investment trusts in Germany, I was under the impression it’s a particularly UK sort of thing.

    I believe the Flynn effect has gone into reverse more recently, which is really scary 😉 I used IQ as a proxy for any value-adding skill – while we may all have different talents and to a different defree, the sum total of talent is also not evenly distributed in my observance of life!

    @Sara if you haven’t seen the movie Idiocracy yet you should rent it 😉

    We tend to underestimate what’s possible in thel ong term and overestimate what’s possible in the short term. I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t see some sort of move to a shorter working day in the decades to come. Although I don’t totally agree with some of the politics in Martin Ford’s The Lights In the Tunnel book It is an interesting, and perhaps possible, scenario. We have passively engineered industrial capitalism to maximise production and consumption, in some areas at the expense of quality of life. Humanity doesn’t have too bad a record of eventually shifting entrenched positions onto better paths, but it happens slowly and so it’s hard to see. Somewhere Mr Money Mustache made a really good point, which is that now is a tremendous time to be alive, in that it was possible for me to start work with no capital assets and build up enough to retire early – it just wouldn’t have been possible in earlier times for a prole. I never earned anywhere near six-figure salary and have several big finacial cock-ups to my name, too. Younger people are doing better than me at retiring early which indicates that for people who can live within their means it’s getting more possible to draw finacial independence earlier. MMM is one, though he earned more than I did (and is much more driven). But I commend the story of Retirement Investing Today as supporting evidence too, perhaps there is a more to more leisure time and less stuff in some circles.

    @Jane that’s fantastic – and of course each to their own! I know some ‘retired’ people who work part-time to keep their skills up and options open. Maybe I’m an anomaly being so hard-line 😉


  7. No,I’ve never seen Idiocracy – I’ll have to seek it out or will it just depress me?
    Coincidentally I’ve just finished reading “Inferno” by Dan Brown which has as its main driving plot line, the other aspect of this – that there are just too many ruddy people on the planet.


  8. @Sara – Idiocracy is based on C. M. Kornbluth’s short story, “The Marching Morons”. They also appear in his novel “Search the Sky”.


  9. Hi Ermine, a interesting and thought provoking article.
    But here is a copy of a comment I read on the Sloggers site. It pretty much sums up what as gone wrong and maybe what the resulting outcome might be.
    indigoboy August 8, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I looked in the mirror this morning and realised that I caused the Crash. Well, to be accurate, I and millions of others who deluded themselves into the barmy idea, that just because I desired ‘it’ to go on forever, did not mean that ‘it’ could go on forever.

    If you have a project that needs to be accomplished, (say) the digging of a canal between two towns, there are several ways to do it.

    1. You can use slave labour. You give them their barest needs, and a whip on their backs if they stop digging.

    2. You can use the ill-educated, ignorant and half starved poor, by giving them ‘just’ enough’, in terms of wages, slum housing etc, so they can stay alive, (but only just!), and they will continue to dig till ‘they drop’, to earn the pennies that will go straight to rent and food and cheap gin (to block out their misery).

    3. Create a belief system. Make sure that the belief system has a reward structure, so that the ‘believers’, will dig willingly and happily, for little reward today, because their understanding is that they will be rewarded in later life via a pension, or better still, if the belief system incorporates an unseen god, then the reward can be postponed, post death. This clever method has the benefits that by the time you realise you were duped, you will be too old and f**ked, to do anything about it, or better yet, dead. (The dead don’t sue for miss-selling).

    4. You get a dozen or so JCB earth diggers, and fill them with cheap diesel oil. You can afford to pay the dozen or so JCB drivers very well, because the actual (real), ‘workers’, or ‘slaves’, are in the fuel tank of the JCB. This works extremely well, and has done for 50+years. It also allows those workers not needed to drive a JCB, to pursue and enjoy other tasks, some of which are useful to society’s abundant growing wealth, and some which are frankly pointless, like nail technicians, and diversity outreach workers. But when fossil energy is cheap, and growth is abundant, there is room (and tolerance), for all.

    And then one day shit happened, and cheap energy turned into expensive energy. And now as the energy gets ever more expensive, the whole pyramid of pointless jobs, together with a mountain of debt, that is increasingly un-payable becomes (daily), more evident. ‘..Debt..’, (which is the same thing, as ‘work carried out’ at some point in the future), we believed WAS payable, but with cheap ‘slaves in the tank’, from future industriousness. But if the cheap energy that was going to pay off that mountain of debt has gone, how or who, will pay it.?

    To keep the global ‘debt plate’ spinning, and keep default, at arm’s length, first you create money from thin air to keep it inflated, then you come for the cash that savers have accrued, then you rob pensioners, then you sell of all the assets, then you make people work for less and less until they are at subsistence,…. or slave wages.

    Everything can and WILL, be sacrificed, to try to maintain the belief that the global debt and its accompanying monetary system is viable, when it is clear to most with a functioning neuron, , that it is not.

    By the way continue enjoying your retirement.
    A quote from Warren Buffett, “Whether you are a millionaire or a pauper, you still only have 60 minutes in each hour. so make the most of it”.


  10. @Lupulco good – to take that line of thinking further you could also take a look at the Automatic Earth and the Archdruid Report.

    I’m not convinced that at this stage energy costs / availability are our main problems. That isn’t to say they won’t become one. But at the moment we seem to be making a human mess, which is particularly tragic in the light of our material wealth – all that effort and consumption ought to be making us happier than it seems to be


  11. Well said ermine.
    On house prices: I posit: prices rise to match the money available. If there are two incomes to buy a house, the price of a house will tend to rise to match two incomes.


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