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Chris Martenson (www.peakprosperity.com)
1) S. Jetchick (2010-January-29)
2) Stefan's "quick and dirty" notes while watching "The Crash Course"
3) Amanda Witman (2010-January-29)
[No e-mail address on his web site, but there was a contact form, which I used on 2010-January-29 at 16h00] Good day Sir, A buddy of mine recommended "The Crash Course", which I watched from beginning to end. My e-mail is a bit long, but I wanted to: 1) Thank you for all the good in your course 2) Provide some hopefully constructive criticism of "The Crash Course" 3) Explain why I almost donated to your cause, but changed my mind at the last moment. So here we go. 1) Thank you for all the good in your course ==================================================== I want to thank you for several reasons: - Our society is drowning in silly videos that basically boil down to daydreaming (and we're not even talking about porn videos here!). It's amazing how many silly DVDs can be found in an average video rental shop, whereas it's almost impossible to find a video, like yours, that tries to talk about serious issues with a scientific approach. - You ask for donations, but still your course is free, which is always nice. - I'm not an economist, so my economic opinions are not very credible, but for what it's worth I did not see any huge economic errors in your course. While I already knew about "fiat" currency from the excellent Overview of Philosophy by Thonnard, still I was surprized at the application of those principles to the current economy in the USA. Thanks! 2) Provide some hopefully constructive criticism of "The Crash Course" ==================================================== If I had any criticism to formulate about "The Crash Course", it would be: - Not enough thought about the causes of those problems; and - Not enough thought about the essential solutions. First, you clearly describe many very serious problems ("The three E's" in your classification), but the fundamental causes of those problems are not actually discussed (at least not in the version of "The Crash Course" I viewed). My attempt at connecting those fundamental causes with what you say in your "Crash Course" is here: The Gross National Product And The Ten Commandments (Notice at the end of Section 5 I give credit to your course.) Second, the last chapter of your course (ch. 20 - What is to be done) contains nothing wrong, but nothing particularly helpful either. In my opinion, you basically avoid the single most essential solution: Good Politics. The huge problems you so clearly show cannot be solved by individual, private, and uncoordinated actions. And by definition, actions that are public, collective and coordinated are... political! See among others: A Reading List For Political Cynics 3) Explain why I almost donated to your cause, but changed my mind at the last moment. ==================================================== I did have my credit card out of my wallet to donate 20$ to your effort, but I had to first register to be able to donate. Then they asked me to carefully read all the disclaimers and guidelines and such, and I found this: "OFF-LIMIT TOPICS Regretfully, through much trial and even more error, we've determined that there are several topics that seem to escape the ability of otherwise careful and considerate people to discuss pleasantly in an online forum: * Religion * Abortion These topics are not allowed, and any threads or posts containing them will be promptly removed. We wish it could be otherwise, but our hard-earned experience is that these topics are not worth the trouble. We appreciate your understanding." Scientifically speaking, when "careful and considerate people" fail dismally at a task, it usually means they are not using a good method. What is the debating method recommended on your web site? Do you have something akin to this? Concedo, Nego, Distinguo (How can people who disagree have a respectful and constructive argument?) Also, you claim abortion is a topic "not worth the trouble". Do you have any arguments to back up that opinion? (In your "Crash Course", you're very good at avoiding assertions that are not backed up by data or supporting arguments.) When I last tried to examine whether abortion was an important topic, I did not reach the same conclusion as you: "What is one of the corner stones of a civilized society? Human rights! Think about it: What's the use of having well- paved roads, without potholes, if the police can arrest you for no reason? What's the use of eliminating waiting lines in hospital emergency wards, if your neighbors can kidnap your children and steal your car? What's the use of eliminating greenhouse gases, if you have no rights? Now, given human rights are fundamental, which is the most fundamental human right? For example, what is the first thing you need, if you want to have a citizen who has a right to education, a right to clean drinking water, and a right to freedom of expression? A citizen, of course! (If that citizen has been killed, there's not much use giving him all the other rights!) Therefore, the most fundamental right is the right to life. And since human rights are already the most fundamental things in any society, we can say that the right to life is doubly fundamental: it is fundamentally fundamental." [Source] Thank you, and have a nice day! Stefan
Warning! Dear reader, what follows is probably not important for you. It's mostly a reminder to myself, so I don't forget what I learned from "The Crash Course".
www.peakprosperity.com/crashcourse The Crash Course chapter 1 - facts, opinions, beliefs - Massive change is upon us - Overwhelming change is possible - We can shape the future (we lack the political will) chapter 2 - The three E's - Economy: exponential money, bursting credit bubble, demographics, national failure to save - Energy: peak oil - Environment: climate change, food production - These problems have never been faced before. A declining standard of living "is in the cards". ch. 3 - exponential shape - hockey stick chart, i.e. exponential growth of world population, money, oil - We are living in an age where hundreds of graphs are approaching the vertical phase of their exponential trajectory, because of population growth. ch. 4 - the power of compounding - example of drop of magic water doubling every minute, which fill Fenway Park in 49 minutes, still 93% empty 5 minutes before disaster. - The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function (Dr. Albert Bartlett) ch. 5 - Growth and prosperity - Truth is first ridiculed, then violently opposed, then accepted as self-evident (Arthur Schopenhauer) - Traditional opinion: Growth is a consequence of surplus, and Growth = prosperity - Example of family which has the choice between a 4000$ raise, and an additional child. He claims that proves Growth != Prosperity. - If we run out of energy, we'll run out of growth and prosperity. - Implicitely, seems to say Birth Control = Prosperity ch. 6 - What is money - Money is necessary for specialization of labor. - Money: stores value, medium of exchange, unit of account - His definition: Money is a claim on human labor. - US money is "fiat" money. - It used to be backed by silver or gold. Now just illegal to refuse dollars as payment. - Hyperinflation destroys fiat money, and also destroys savings. Inflationary money systems require citizens to subject their savings to risk. - The Government can destroy our fiat money, hence our savings. ch. 7 - Money creation - John Kenneth Galbraith: money creation is simple but repellent. Money is loaned into existence. - Banks, by loaning people's savings, create money ("fractional reserve banking"). - Explains "bank run". ch. 8 - The Fed - US Treasury Bonds - When the Federal Reserve writes a check, it creates money. - All dollars are backed by debt. - At a minimum, each year, enough new money must be loaned into existence to cover the interest payments on all the past outstanding debts. - Perpetual growth is a requirement of modern banking. ch. 9 - Brief history of US Money - "Federal Reserve" governmentally-sponsored bank cartel, licensed to lend money into existence. - Governments can change rules and break their own rules. - 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, NH. The US dollars was made the global reserve currency. IMF born. - Nixon, 1971-august-15, no more gold convertability. - Paper dollars can now be issued without limits. - 2 foreign wars + tax reduction = highest levels of government debt. - This leads to hyperinflation, destruction of US dollar, then destruction of USA. ch. 10 - Inflation - Inflation is caused by the presence of too much money. Rising prices is just the symptom. - Wars make the government print more money to pay for them, causing inflation. - When a bomb blows up, there no residual benefit to the domestic economy later on. - Your savings and paychecks have been sacrified for the war effort. - Permanent inflation is a recent development. - My money loses value exponentially. - Inflation is a monetary phenomenon. - Voltaire: paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value - zero. 1729. - John Maynard Keynes: Lenin was certainly right, there is no more positive, or subtle or surer means of destroying the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretely and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of the citizens. ch. 11 - How much is a trillion - 67.9 mile-high stack of 1000 dollar bills ch. 12 - Debt - Growing debt levels implicitely assume that the future will be larger than the present - Printing money is a form of default that punishes people with savings. - US Federal Debt in 2008-April: 9 444 399 908 743$ - "investment debt", like college loan, or increase in size of a successful restaurant - non self-liquidating debts (like wars) - Debt: futur consumption taken today. - debt is a claim on future human labor. - Two possibilities: default (money is still worth something, but you don't get it back), or inflation (you get it back, but it hardly buys anything). - Per capita debt has never been higher - Debt has increased by 16 Tera$ in only 5 years, most of it consumptive debt. ch. 13 - Failure to save - The US Government is insolvent - Individuals, State and local pensions have not saved. - David M. Walker, US Comptroller (ret.) says US Government has broken business model, faces deficits, etc. - 53-85Tera$ of insolvency for USA. ch. 14 - Assets and demographics - household net worth: supposedly 19.8T$ - Debts are fixed, but assets are variable - rise in house prices cannot be "realized". - household net worth: negative if you include national debt. - top 1% of households own 35% of real estate and 56% of stock. - 80% of the population have 15% of the wealth - Number of workers per retiree by 2030 will be below 3:1. - "Baby Boomer Bulge" ch. 15 - Bubbles - A bubble exists when asset price inflation rises beyond what incomes can sustain. Hope and greed replace reason. - 1637-Feb-5: Price for Gouda Tulip Bulbs crashed overnight. - South Sea Bubble; Stock bubble before the Depression; etc. Usually symetrical in time and price. Shaped by human emotions. - Don't open your wallet when you hear: "This time it's different!" - Ludwig Von Mises: "There is no way of avoiding the total collapse of a boom brought about by the credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved." - Martensen tries to place his wealth out of the path of a potential dollar collapse. (Sometimes referred to as the "ABCD Strategy", or Anything Bernanke (chairman of the Federal Reserve) Can't Destroy.) ch. 16 - Fuzzy numbers - There are lies, damn lies, and statistics about inflation! - CPI now calculated with Boskin's Report (Substitution, Weighing, Hedonics). Not cost of living, but cost of surviving. - Inflation is more like 15% than 8%. Many things make more sense that way. - GDP statistics: in 2003, Imputations and Hedonics (unrelated to any actual transaction) accounted for 35%. - GDP artificially high, CPI artificially low. ch. 17 - Peak oil (parts A to C) - liquid fuels and natural gas = 75% of our energy use. - We import 66% of our oil, equivalent to 750 nuclear plants (we currently have 104). - Oil: prices rising, production leveling off, 40 years after peak oil discovery (1964). - One 100W light bulb = one fit cyclist - One gallon of gas = 500 hours of hard human labor. - Average US household has the equivalent of hundreds of slaves. - 400 gallons of petroleum per person per year to grow food in the USA. - Transportation (70%) and industry (fertilizer, plastics, paint, etc.) cannot be replaced by renewables. - Oil exports are being hit by rising demand (internal and external) and declining production. - The energy cliff. Recent oil finds are returning roughly 3 to 1. - Hydrogen is not a source of energy, but a carrier of energy. - The price of energy is irrelevant; net energy is everything. Social complexity is built upon surplus energy. - Economics: the science of satisfying unlimited demand with limited supplies. - What if our exponentially-based economic and monetary systems, rather than being the sophisticated culmination of human evolution, are rather just an artifact of oil? What if all of our rich societal complexity and all of our trillions of dollars of wealth and debt are simply the human expression of surplus energy, pumped from the ground? - To our nation, the end of cheap oil means a sustained and permanent reduction in our after tax take-home pay. - Predictions: - status quo will be preseved at all costs (politicians will hide the truth, economic statistics will become even more fuzzier, and central banks will continue to throw more and more money at a system that at its core is out of tune with reality - hyperinflation - standards of living will decline ch. 18 - Environment - Population will double in next 40 years - We exploit the highest-quality, easiest to obtain resources first ("high-grading"). - Anthracite coal almost depleted in 100 years. - France and the USA are past their peak uranium. - Biosystem stress: Human species is burning through top soil, animal species, dead zones in shallow seas, aquifers, etc. - 70M new persons arrive every year. - Out of the three "E"s, the one that will crash is the Economy (Economy: Must grow, Energy: can't grow, Environment: depleting). ch. 19 - Future shock - the "twenty-teens": failure to save, massive debt, housing bubble, boomers retire, peak oil demand, environment, etc. - We need to set priorities, and live within our means. ch. 20 - What is to be done - Personal risk mitigation plan - private citizens and small communities must bear more responsibilities. - compares building an ark with no flood, with not building an ark with a flood. - If there is a non-zero risk of something horrible happening, it's worth thinking about mitigating that risk. - self-assessment (financial, foundational, physical needs) - be prepared for a financial catastrophe. - Prepare for disruptions to support systems. - Be prepared to help others.
From: Amanda Witman (amanda (add "at" symbol here) chrismartenson.com) Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2010 23:05:13 -0500 Subject: RE: [General Question/Comment] Correspondence with Mr. Chris Martenson To: inquisition.ca Thank you so much for your interest and for taking the time to offer your feedback for improving the Crash Course. Chris is not able to respond personally to every message he receives, but he is always grateful for constructive feedback and gives it careful consideration. We need your help in spreading the word that we depend on the support of members and donors to make it possible for Chris to continue this work. If there are people in your life who would benefit from the information Chris offers, please tell them about ChrisMartenson.com. Thank you for your support. Sincerely, Amanda Witman ChrisMartenson.com
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