Saturday, April 11, 2009

Off Topic: James Kunstler

If you haven't noticed, the market has been rallying recently, and there is talk that several industrial signs are showing signs of life. Almost all economists now think that the market contraction will end around 2010-2012.

Not James Kunstler, America's foremost "peak oil" person. His basic conclusion is that everything is bad (he hates the American landscape, the American political scene, and believes that the suburbs are responsible for everything bad) and that everything is about to get worse. He thought Y2K was going to destroy us, then peak oil, and now the financial crisis. He thinks that the 1000+ year trend of more wealth over time will end and civilization (Wal-Mart, Disneyland, highways) will collapse. He also thinks that he can predict the future, even though he has NO credentials in what he is talking about (being a journalist =/= being an energy economist).

This is literally how he talks (I am copying his argument from his blog) :

James Kunstler: Now that banks are failing, the government will cause the currency to undergo hyperinflation (okay, that is somewhat of a leap of faith). This will cause all stores but the essential ones to close (okay, another leap of faith). The fall of banking will prevent us from getting food next year (what?) because farmers cannot get loans (citation needed?) City governments won't get financing (weren't they just sent money from the federal government? again, citation needed), which will cause social safety nets to disappear and the poor to start dying (so, some bank failures = massive starvation? didn't a bunch of banks fail in the 1980s (google Savings and loans scandal?). Tax revenues will go down, which will cause schools to close. Health care goes to third world levels (what the fuck?). It could be worse than the 1930s.

Let's parse that last comment for a second. It "could" be worse. Well, the next decade "could" be better than the 1990s, when our economy boomed. It's not a prediction, so it cannot be wrong.

As I said before, he sees the negative in EVERYTHING. Here are some things that bothered him in the same blog post where he mentioned the whole "Third World" healthcare hypothesis:

* America sucks because... James Kunstler's flights were delayed. He had to go on a BUS.
* Not only that, but traffic was slow on that bus for TWENTY MILES.
* The people of Aspen even had the nerve to NOT BUILD A TRAIN SYSTEM WHEN THERE WERE DELAYS AT THE AIPORT. We truly are the "Bulgaria of the Western hemisphere." My God, can you imagine the horror of GOING ON A BUS?
* The people at the conference James was attending organize this bus (for free) and give people accomedations for free. Now, ordinarily, you'd think that Kunstler could at least be happy with a FREE HOTEL ROOM.
* Wrong! THE IN-ROOM WIRELESS DIDN'T WORK. My God James, it was like you were staying in a hotel in the year... 2000.
* So, James can't go without blogging, so he has to go TO THE LOBBY for his FREE WIRELESS.
* James then reveals the real torment of his stay in the hotel: THERE WERE CHILDREN IN THE LOBBY SHOUTING.
* Also, America sucks because... the elevator was made by a foreign corporation. Seriously.

However, we might notice some contradictions here:
1) James Kunslter argues that public transportation has been critically ignored by governments. However, he flew to a Conference and did nothing but complain about how SLOW his BUS was. Does James think that buses are incredibly rapid in England (or even in Japan)?
2) James criticizes suburbia for destroying a sense of community. However, when confronted with actual children, he shows his "spirit of community" by commenting on the "idiocy" of everyone else there (for not liking public transit like BUSES), by calling the airline industry "idiots," and the Department of Transportation employees as "jackasses."
3) James predicts things are going to get worse. When they don't (like when the stock market went up instead of down when he predicted it), he just says that the bad things will happen later. If he has no professional training or expertise other than studying this issue and if his predictions are often alarmist and wrong, why should we listen to him?