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Commentary on the year 2011: The Year the Train Left the Station and We Were Not On it.

July 24, 2012

2011: The Year in review.

I guess if I were to give the year a name, I would call 2011 “The Year the Train Left the Station and We Were Not On it.” Since there were too many departing trains that we missed to discuss here, I will only look at what could be referred to as “The Big Train or the “Everything Train” or even the God Train.”

The God Train has an engineer and a conductor who sometimes change jobs with each other. One I like to call The Sorcerers Apprentice.” He represents the fundamental physical and mathematical constraint that nothing in nature increases geometrically forever. (In other words the miracle of compound interest only occurs if you are lucky enough to get out in time.) As long as there is an end (a wall), whether it is at the far reaches of the universe or across the room compound, growth eventually must stop. In our case, you and I, the limit is often set by the earth; its air water or whatever.

In 2011 it appeared to me that most of us, even those whose interest it is to ignore or deny it, have recognized a feeling, no matter how vague, that there are limits to most things.

Unfortunately, one of the undeniable aspects of geometric growth is that, in effect, it speeds up the closer it gets to its limit. This is often represented in the hockey stick graph we have all seen whenever someone wishes to frighten someone else into awareness of a particular limit. (It never works by the way. I guess no one fears a hockey stick.)

The second employee of Godʼs Railroad, I like to refer to as the “Rich Poor Ghost.” (Not the “Poor Rich Ghost” there are a lot of them around. Perhaps more today than ever.) You see there is another physical law of the universe; everything, even thought, takes energy no matter how little. But, what is special about the Rich Poor Ghost, is that often when you want to do something else, almost anything else than what you are doing (or you want to change something), it takes energy (or money) to stop what you are doing and even more energy or money to start doing the new thing.

Take for example an old automobile you have that you may still have some payments on it. You would like to rid yourself of the old clunker and get something that would better let everyone know that you are richer than you really are. Now normally there is no problem. You go to the dealer and trade in your old car and drive away with a fully bank owned new car. You can do it because the manufacturer (or bank) bears the cost of building the auto and charges you a mark up for that service when you buy the car.

Assume however, he doesnʼt do that and requires you to advance him the cost right from the digging up the metals with which the car is fabricated all the way until it reaches you freshly painted in the color of your choice. You then, for a while, would have to pay twice; pay for your old car while the new one is being built as well as for your new car during its construction.

Unpleasant, but you have a good job with extra money and a great deal of optimism, so you make the deal. But what happens if you do not have the money? Well you can sell your old car, but you would have to go without personal transportation. You could wait until you have paid off the car, but it is an old car and there is increased upkeep and maintenance to pay for before your fully warranted car is ready and so on.

Well, the Rich Poor Ghost is telling us that, if we want to have a chance to avoid driving into the Sorcererʼs Apprenticeʼs wall, it is going to cost money. But, in 2011 we realized that our money (or energy ) is decreasing so there is less of it with which to do what we want. And, since the Rich Poor Ghost tells us that you must pay twice in order to get that new car or energy system or financial system or whatever, you are going to have to give up something else that you have or want. In other words a significant contraction of life style and contraction of the economy is necessary.

In 2011 we, vaguely perceiving the God Train about to leave the station, had another drink at the bar decided that the tickets were too expensive and hoped that a new train with cheaper tickets would depart in the morning.

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