Satire — May 15, 2019, 12:44 pm

Economics for a Fried Planet

How to turn the climate collapse into retirement bliss

In this financial freedom update, I’d like to tackle the question of your optimal retirement lifestyle. Over the next decade, the failure to engage in real emissions reductions will contribute to cascading, horrific effects on the natural environment. In theory, we have about twelve years to get things right before the whole biosphere falls apart.

You and I can look at the news and know that’s not happening, which is why you’ve already got yourself a stockpile of the basics: a small gasoline tanker; a few surplus Army jeeps; shelf-stable food; an arsenal; some sturdy motor homes. You’ve probably already identified neighbors and friends who can play roles in your gang, whether as medics or cooks, and you’ve come up with your Power Arguments about why they need to obey you. But I’ve got some extra tips and tricks that can stretch your budget even further.

First off, drop the idea that you’ll be able to carve out an idyllic future in some remote location, blissfully unaware of the collapse of civilization. Trade is a timeless feature of human life, and you’ll need connections with other survivors to fill the gaps in your resources. Beyond that, your compound of a few dozen needs to get out there and meet other people. Total isolation for decades would drive you insane, and that’s costly. It would be a miracle if your enclave didn’t turn into a sex cult or descend into murderous feuds.

But don’t take this need for socializing too far by merging your party with one of the warlord’s. With allegiance comes debt, and with debt comes a loss of independence. Your consumer credit score won’t transfer over to the climate apocalypse. Warlords expect you to produce—they want plunder from raiding, and they won’t accept coming up short. They’ll take your vehicles and your compound, and that will be that. And do you really trust the warlords? Even the guy who was a health insurance executive and now carries two AK-47s? Get real. The only “payment plan” that guy understands is digging trenches until you collapse. Don’t put yourself in a position where you need to borrow from the warlords.

Instead, find something you’re good at and do it well. Do it so well that other people come to you. That’ll be your competitive advantage. Maybe it’s a rudimentary water filtration system, or a hydroponic garden. Think of a niche that allows you to trade with others on your own terms. Then you can move up the value chain—diversify your compound with a real division of labor. Don’t fall for the old Robinson Crusoe story about trying to do all the work by yourself. You’re a manager, now, and you’ve got to match talents to needs.

Really, we’re talking about incentives. Incentives teach your gang members how you want them to behave on the compound. Remember your Chomsky: you need to manufacture consent. Your intellectual hold over your gang members is just as important as your mastery of handheld weapons. The warlords will use brute force, but that’s a poor motivator for the long term.

A best practice is to let your people keep a share of what they produce for the collective. Giving your gang members a stake in production—as well as ranks and special awards—helps them learn that you want them around. If you filter water, make sure your gang gets first dibs on a drink before you sell off any remainder to the warlords. If you make weapons out of salvaged metal, give your gang the best pieces before heading down to the market point. Respect is a form of social capital you should cultivate.

After production comes consumption. Map your resources and chart out a sustainable path for your community. Sound easy? Well, think about why you’re on the compound in the first place: sustainability is easier said than done. Take extra care to impose a rational plan for using up your limited resources, however “too little, too late” it might seem.

The best tip I can give is to steel yourself for a mean new world. There’s no ethical consumption in a climate apocalypse. Your individual behavior, like exiling a gang member that steals from you, will often feel at odds with the norms of justice. That’s okay. Think like an economist and you’ll be all right.

Share
Single Page

More from Donald Hughes:

Satire February 22, 2019, 11:35 am

An Unprecedented Twist

A plan for supplementary gruel must be rejected

Satire December 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The Revolution’s Elusive Messiah

A plea to the left to reconsider efforts focused on “the greater good”

Satire November 15, 2018, 11:36 am

The View from Bay Street

Profit rolls into Canada’s capital, but at what cost?

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2019

The Last Frontier

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Play with No End

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Call of the Drums

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Brutal from the Beginning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Alps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Last Frontier·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The San Luis Valley in southern Colorado still looks much as it did one hundred, or even two hundred, years ago. Blanca Peak, at 14,345 feet the fourth-highest summit in the Rockies, overlooks a vast openness. Blanca, named for the snow that covers its summit most of the year, is visible from almost everywhere in the valley and is considered sacred by the Navajo. The range that Blanca presides over, the Sangre de Cristo, forms the valley’s eastern side. Nestled up against the range just north of Blanca is Great Sand Dunes National Park. The park is an amazement: winds from the west and southwest lift grains of sand from the grasses and sagebrush of the valley and deposit the finest ones, creating gigantic dunes. You can climb up these dunes and run back down, as I did as a child on a family road trip and I repeated with my own children fifteen years ago. The valley tapers to a close down in New Mexico, a little north of Taos. It is not hard to picture the indigenous people who carved inscriptions into rocks near the rivers, or the Hispanic people who established Colorado’s oldest town, San Luis, and a still-working system of communal irrigation in the southeastern corner, or a pioneer wagon train. (Feral horses still roam, as do pronghorn antelope and the occasional mountain lion.)

Article
A Play with No End·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When I caught up with the Gilets Jaunes on March 2, near the Jardin du Ranelagh, they were moving in such a mass through the streets that all traffic had come to a halt. The residents of Passy, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Paris, stood agape and apart and afraid. Many of the shops and businesses along the route of the march, which that day crossed seven and a half miles of the city, were shuttered for the occasion, the proprietors fearful of the volatile crowd, who mostly hailed from outside Paris and were considered a rabble of invaders.

Article
The Call of the Drums·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Kurultáj, an event held annually outside the town of Bugac, Hungary, is billed as both the “Tribal Assembly of the Hun-­Turkic Nations” and “Europe’s Largest Equestrian Event.” When I arrived last August, I was fittingly greeted by a variety of riders on horseback: some dressed as Huns, others as Parthian cavalrymen, Scythian archers, Magyar warriors, csikós cowboys, and betyár bandits. In total there were representatives from twenty-­seven “tribes,” all members of the “Hun-­Turkic” fraternity. The festival’s entrance was marked by a sixty-­foot-­tall portrait of Attila himself, wielding an immense broadsword and standing in front of what was either a bonfire or a sky illuminated by the baleful glow of war. He sported a goatee in the style of Steven Seagal and, shorn of his war braids and helmet, might have been someone you could find in a Budapest cellar bar. A slight smirk suggested that great mirth and great violence together mingled in his soul.

Article
Brutal from the Beginning·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Celebrity sightings are a familiar feature of the modern N.B.A., but this year’s playoffs included an appearance unusual even by the standards of America’s most star-­friendly sports league. A few minutes into the first game of the Western Conference semifinals, between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston ­Rockets—the season’s hottest ticket, featuring the reigning M.V.P. on one side and the reigning league champions on the other—­President Paul Kagame of Rwanda arrived with an entourage of about a dozen people, creating what the sports website The Undefeated called “a scene reminiscent of the fashionably late arrivals of Prince, Jay-­Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna.”

Article
The Alps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Toyota HiAce with piebald paneling, singing suspension, and a reg from the last millennium rolled into the parking lot of the Swinford Gaels football club late on a Friday evening. The HiAce belonged to Rory Hughes, the eldest of the three brothers known as the Alps, and the Alps traveled everywhere together in it. The three stepped out and with a decisive slam of the van’s side door moved off across the moonscape of the parking lot in the order of their conceptions, Rory on point, the middle brother, Eustace, close behind, and the youngest, ­Bimbo, in dawdling tow.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

“What’s the point?” said Senator Tim Scott, who is paid at least $174,000 per year as an elected official, when asked whether he had read the Mueller report.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today