By James Howard Kunstler
September 5, 2011
There’s a difference, of course, between what this country thinks it needs and what it’s going to get. The world has a way of dragging you, kicking and screaming, to where it wants to take you.
We think we need more American oil so we can “end our dependence on foreign oil.” Despite the PR bullshit you see on CNBC, the oil is not really there in a form that will flow sufficiently to support our completely insane mode of living in cars. I get letters from crazy people every week who tell me that shale oil from the Bakken Formation in Dakota will keep this racket going. Forget about it. Marcellus shale gas? Similar story. These are phantom energy reserves. And we don’t have enough capital to throw at it.
The world wants to take us to the place where you don’t have to use a car eleven times a day, a different arrangement of things on the landscape than what we’re currently stuck with in most of the United States. The American people are not disposed to taking this idea seriously, but we’ll get to that place eventually. The first kickings and screamings are exactly what’s coming out of the Tea Party. These are people who don’t want to change the sacrosanct American Way of Life, but they don’t want to have to pay for it either, so the contradiction produces a sound and fury.
This week, President Obama is on the spot to deliver a Santa Claus sack of “job initiatives.” What a sad assignment. We’re leaving behind that kind of economy, with secure salaried plug-in positions provided by giant corporations and governments. We’re headed into a world not of “jobs” but of vocations, trades, crafts, situations, and a lot of casual labor, largely self-guided by those with who possess a functioning internal compass. Obama can pretend to keep the old way going, but that pretense will be along the same lines as keeping insolvent banks going. The Federal Government can pay people to work repairing highways and bridges but the road system is too big now for even an additional “jobs” crew to stay ahead on maintenance, plus why are we putting these capital and labor resources into gold-plating a car-and-truck system that is going to be functionally obsolete in a few years?
Gorbachev called it right. His aim was true. Perestroika… restructuring. The Soviet Union was thoroughly corrupt, incompetent, and insolvent. I suppose Gorby thought he could guide his country through a transition, but the system he headed was so astonishingly flimsy that it just fell apart in a few months, and even left him behind. Still, I regard it as one of the major miracles of history that Russia did not trip into a bloody civil war. Maybe Russia had enough blood-spilling with Stalin and World War Two. Otherwise, it was a kind of magic moment in 1990 when the whole rotten edifice crumbled neatly into its own grave.