In respect to the initial formulation of a question along the rough lines “How is suspension of consequences possible?” there are only three basic options:

(1) It’s not. All deferral of consequences is illusion. The reality is something akin to instant karma. (There’s something about this line of thinking I respect, but I’ve no idea how it could be coherently put together, and then knitted with explanatory plausibility to evident historical fact.)
(2) It’s complicated.
(3) That old problem is over. Haven’t you heard of the Death of Reality? Postmodernism, bitchez. (This is Derrida and Baudrillard — smart, terminally decadent, and radically inconsistent with NRx. It’s also the implicit principle of post-liberal macro-economics.)

Number Two is surely the only path here that is NRx-compatible. Its articulation remains almost entirely unachieved, although this is no great source of shame — the prior intellectual history of the world got nowhere with it, either. It might not be the deepest problem about time, but it is the one with the greatest immediate relevance to generally-acknowledged historical processes, and (perhaps) also the greatest direct practical application. What it explores is the potential for a realistic analysis of the provisionally-functional denial of reality. It crosses almost everything ‘we’ are talking about.

Charles Hugh-Smith writes:

By the time extend-and-pretend finally reaches its maximum limits, the resulting implosion is so large that the shock waves topple regimes, banks, currencies and entire nations.

If NRx seems predisposed to apocalypticism, it is because it concurs — both with the proposal that “maximum limits” exist, and the attendant thesis that some reality-suppressing tendency is reaching them. “Extend-and-pretend” — or radically finite reality denial — is an engine of catastrophe. It enables negative consequences to be accumulated through postponement, without prospect of final (‘postmodern’) absolution. Yes, the coagulated detritus does eventually collide ruinously with the unpleasantness purifier. The fact it hasn’t already done so, however, is a puzzle of extraordinary profundity.

ADDED: Scharlach responds.

February 19, 2015admin 33 Comments »
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33 Responses to this entry

  • grey enlightenment Says:

    America has reserve currency /safe haven status. that helps considerably. Look at companies like apple making tends of billions of dollars a quarter; there are real fundamentals at work besides fed intervention. Demographics also pretty good, economically speaking. There are problems, but I don’t see evidence of economic collapse anytime soon. Cultural collapse is more likely, but thus won;t necessarily lead to economic collapse.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 4:12 pm Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    @Demographics are good? WTF The entire establishment is making it clear european derived pop is going to become minority, and they want to fill the place with Africans – how has this gone with South Africa. As for safe haven/ reserve currency – safe haven status is a curse. When the crap hits the fan, everyone will run to the dollar, which will appreciate in value like crazy – great for exporting!!! and last I checked, there are multiple currency options arising which make the US reserve status potentially perilous.

    The fundamentals are down the toilet.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 4:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Suspense | Neoreactive Says:

    […] Suspense […]

    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 4:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Henry Dampier Says:

    For it to really fall apart, more forced lending needs to happen. That’s not really happening, despite a lot of political pressure for it to happen.

    This is a good piece on the debate from 2009 that takes into account a broad spectrum of opinion:

    Banking issues were not at the forefront of Paulson’s mind when they were rushing to do the bailouts: political instability was on their mind. The bailouts were not strictly financially necessary, but they were politically critical.

    The politicians are frightened for their lives, and they will behave to protect their skins, rather than what’s in their general interest of the states which they manage. Fear keeps the political leadership constrained as to what they can and can’t do in response to the crisis. This is rather frustrating to a lot of economists, who would like to see bank nationalizations and broader forced lending programs to parties other than national governments.

    In practice, the constraints are not on the banking system, which deeply frustrates people like Sumner and Krugman. They know that they could get what they want, on paper. In practice, they are rebuffed, out of terror (in my estimation) of how the populace might react. There is also the question of who would gain from nationalizations. It is easy to know who gains from the endless QE programs.

    Let’s not forget that the bailouts passed despite something like an over 90% strong opposition from ye demos; a rare example of the mob being absolutely correct in its inclinations.

    Managing this loss of legitimacy is top of mind for people like Kissinger, who seems to have gone over to despair. This is probably why Piketty enjoyed so many laurels despite no one reading his useless book. For poor, fat, Davos man, it is a question of what they can do to reduce their losses, buy time, and fabricate ad hoc delaying actions. The US enjoys the temporary privilege of being able to feed its political satellites to the worms of entropy to keep ’em distracted and well-fed.

    Once there is nothing left for the worms to eat, they will devour the US.


    John Reply:

    That article you linked is quite informative, although I’m afraid to say I’m rather more confused after reading it. Apparently all fiat money is in actuality fictional? The only thing that is actually worth anything is “capital”? Only central bankers hold the keys to discern when money is real and when it is imaginary? If all of this is arbitrary, why does the entire world play along?

    It’s very unappealing to hold a currency whose value is at the whim of these stodgy old wizards.


    VXXC Reply:

    The world plays along because our power is among the legacies we haven’t completely squandered yet.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 4:41 pm Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    You might say it’s not an engine of catastrophe, but perhaps a Calamity Drive. The question RE: power is less ‘will it cause destruction’ but rather is it possible to direct the destruction it causes fruitfully, as one might use dynamite. Do the wicked ever prosper? Certainly! But their prosperity is always at a cost – the wisest among them know how to kick the can for so long as cans can be kicked.

    The final question then is, having directed the destruction of their folly to a fruitful target, can one dispose of the Calamity Drive at all? Or does the process of controlling the Calamity Drive entangle one in its Calamities?


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    A corollary that may explain our situation is that the longer the can is kicked, and the more canny (heh) the wicked are, the more disincentivized they are to finally pay the price, since the longer they postpone, the more expensive the debt becomes, until no one in their right mind, wicked or not, would dare do otherwise.

    It seems it would require a rogue agent, like E.S, to set the dominoes in motion.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 4:56 pm Reply | Quote
  • Little Hans Says:

    If the current debt economy is decreasing the ‘x’ and increasing the ‘y’ in ‘x percent of people own y percent of wealth’, in one respect it is working against the seriousness of collapse, because the number of huge economic losers is getting smaller and smaller. For the 99% it just becomes a social and political problem, trying to get the softest (least rioty) reset.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 6:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • Stirner (@heresiologist) Says:

    Spandrell gets at this question from a totally different direection:

    He uses the leftist signularity of the Communist China, but draws parallels to the fiat currency as the slow motion progressive singularity in the West.

    It would seem that traditional moral frameworks help keep the tendency towards leftist singularities in check. Perhaps was was different was that moral status was achieved with deeds, not just words. In the West you had Christian notions of charity, and in East, filial piety.

    With the decline of traditional morality, the mechanism for moral status signaling has shifted over to words. Elites get trapped in an ever escalating cycle of moral signaling, which in the case of the financial system necessitates kicking the can down the road in a desperate attempt to keep the status quo. Yes, there are more sensible options out there, but it is too easy for actual reformers to be outgrouped and purged. Keep this going long enough, and the elites begin to internalize their own lies and become increaingly unable to even contemplate changing course.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 6:58 pm Reply | Quote
  • Manticore Says:

    The reckoning may just seem overdue because we’ve the a negative-sum competition phase of the death spiral. Once you know that all ships are certain to sink, you keep your passengers only by ensuring all other boats are sinking faster. (Assuming the boat is a security of some sort, these passengers are buoyant, and slow your descent.) Even self-destructive moves are rational, so long as A) other guys bleed more than you do and B), your ship will sink before they the consequences arrive.

    If this seems beyond the pale, is there a better explanation for the Saudi self-harming abandonment of $100/barrel? The collapse of the petrodollar? ISIS? Wouldn’t a world war be a great opportunity for a debt-reset?


    Aeroguy Reply:

    I agree


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 7:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • Suspense | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 8:51 pm Reply | Quote
  • regressive Says:

    @Wouldn’t a world war be a great opportunity for a debt-reset?


    “In Judaism and Christianity, the concept of the Jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fiftieth year, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.

    In the Holy Bible, Leviticus 25:8-13 states,[1]

    And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.”


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 9:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    I think rather the articulation of 2) was so comprehensively and widely achieved that it does the opposite of going over one’s head. Going under, like the difficulty of walking as compared to chess.

    You can kick the can. You get have scapegoats. In this fallen world,* generally you get both. TPTB kick the can as far as possible, at the last minute blame the Jews, and rarely suffer at all for their sins. (I wonder who functioned as the usual target of kardectomy in the Aztec lands.) E.g. Hitler and Saddam only suffered because the lost the game of thrones, not for any particular mismanagement.

    The can is full of explosives and grows larger the longer it’s kicked. The reckoning comes, basically, when TPTB fumble a kick. It’s true that the conditions for the fumble haven’t been properly articulated, though that’s because it’s drastically random. All that’s known is any reliable signal of the end’s nighness comes too late to respond. Once TPTB miss a kick it’s too late to wind up for a second go.

    Indeed TPTB suffer so little it’s kind of strange that they bother kicking the can at all. Perhaps they can only reliably blame the Jews during catastrophe. Proggies’ blaming kulaks doesn’t seem to be wearing thin, though.

    *World isn’t really fallen. Physics is necessarily evil – not just our particular physics, but any possible physics; were it not, it would be impossible to be evil and thus impossible to be good, any more than a box can have an inside without an outside.


    vxxc2014 Reply:

    When things get tough people always blame the Amish, Zoroastrians, Yazdis, Pennsylvania Dutch, religious minorities. Except they never Do.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 10:17 pm Reply | Quote
  • neovictorian23 Says:

    I know I’m going to sound like a hopeless Pollyanna, but…”The Big Haircut”:

    “A major first step for successful reform must be the creation of an open and accountable process to unwind current government obligations at all levels, with protection to the extent possible for older Americans who have relied on government promises. This “Big Haircut” will likely require a one time, across the board debt restructuring, accompanied with realistic measures to get entitlements under control and unleash American productivity. The danger lies in being too timid or too tardy, not in being too bold.”

    Yes, these gentlemen still think the US, at least, is reformable. It’s possible that Dampier’s politicians who fear for their lives might craft a settlement rather than see armed revolt.

    It may seem I’m showing a touching faith in demotism here, but political self-interest may actually lead to something positive (but not, of course, until we’ve skated a good deal closer to the Implosion).


    vxxc2014 Reply:

    As I said on Chicago Boyz when they first put America 3.0 up, the intermediate step of
    [THEN A MIRACLE OCCURS] to unwind America 2.0 aka the Cathedral/USG superstate is a bit tricky.

    I think we’ll make it too, we have too much intrinsically going for us in terms of resources, geography and yes our people.

    Our problem is our elites. They will not go quietly but do as much damage as they can as they fall or die – or fall and die as they may correctly see it – for they aren’t misguided or merely creatures of inertia but possessed of insane and consuming malice towards this nation and it’s people.

    As well as malice towards Western Civilization.

    There’s going to be a fight. They achieved power by fighting at home and abroad and it will take a fight to dislodge them and that is the normal course of power among men.

    PS – I love the part about the huge onetime haircut and unwinding of USG obligations.
    Haircut metaphors always fill me with images of Jacobin haircuts. It’s the Prole in me, just can’t help it. I’m also correct in that instinct for these creatures are too malicious to be allowed to slink away.


    neovictorian23 Reply:

    They also wrote:

    “But the political and economic model we now live under cannot go on forever. Some shock may force reform. Let us hope disaster doesn’t strike before we can replace and rebuild our current rickety system. The best course would be for the American people to find the will and the leadership to build something better.”

    The “hope” is sweet, but even though I think there’s a decent possibility we reach some form of “America 3.0”, the “shock” is how it’s going to come down.

    It would be nice if the shock results in only a few dead people, but that really is Pollyannish.


    vxxc2014 Reply:

    The more properly organized and led, informed as to the correct diagnosis the less chaotic destruction.

    vxxc2014 Reply:

    PollyAnna isn’t possible.

    Directed and corrected remedies is possible.

    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 10:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • Izak Says:

    This was a good post.

    A friend of mine belongs to the East Orthodox church. I told her, “You know, I like Christianity, especially the gospels, but I’m not comfortable with the whole notion of the end of times, it just seems paranoid and obsessive.” She told me that in Eastern Orthodoxy, their attitude is that they recognize it will happen, but they advise against thinking about it and looking for signs that it will occur. In fact, the whole genius of Christian historiography is that once you think “the end times” are underway, you’re actually more likely to mistakenly accept the Antichrist as your lord and savior. Maybe River C can comment on what she’s saying, since he probably knows more about this than I do. The attitude strikes me as more healthy than that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Adventists or whoever else.

    The absurdity of postmodern Western civilization has nothing to do with the question of whether or not it lives on borrowed time. Its absurdity is always self-evident, it’s always around us. Of course these things have an economic basis, but the real depth of the problem can be reached, in a sense, by just thoughtfully examining the surface. I think the E! Network or People Magazine is sometimes a better indicator for how things are in the world than the CPI or inflation rates. Apocalypse seems like horror for some, but I’m personally prepared to accept the most haunting possibility of all: that things will remain like this indefinitely. Not permanently, mind you, but with an indefinite end point. Looking for specific signs leading toward catastrophe strikes me as interesting but not exactly productive. “Reality” ultimately will win, but no one knows when and how this will happen. In the meantime, we’re living in reality — a reality no less real than what one finds in the jungle. There is no Baudrillardian “hyperreality,” it’s just cold, ugly reality.

    On one level, I actually admire some of the peak oil/imminent collapse guys like Piero San Giorgio, who actually live off the grid and everything. There’s always the possibility that those guys will prosper in 20 years while I’ll be dead. But for the most part, contemplating the precise moment of collapse does not seem to empower one to walk through the fire. So in a way, I think the last two sentences of the original post are entirely right. The more interesting question isn’t “when/how will everything die” so much as “how does it still survive.” And the answer to this question cannot be glib; it can’t just be “Because everyone’s gone craaaazy!” or whatever. There’s an engine underneath all of this insanity that appears to have some intelligent design.


    vxxc2014 Reply:


    I am beginning to believe John Carpenter is saying more in Prince of Darkness than perhaps just horror schlock.

    That our elites were keeping a prisoner and it escaped them, particularly in Hollywood and popular culture.

    That Carpenter was perhaps being autobiographical, ala Ghostbusters.

    No Demon just malicious men.


    Scharlach Reply:

    But for the most part, contemplating the precise moment of collapse does not seem to empower one to walk through the fire.

    It’s not about contemplating the precise moment of collapse so much as making a prediction about the instability of systems whose inputs don’t include reality. NRx predicts collapse and so is interested in looking for it as the material proof par excellence of the decidedly right-wing hypothesis that reality is not constructed by human agency and that our virtual reality machines can always be unplugged.

    IMO, however, collapse is/will be a series of local slow-motion events as opposed to a singular moment in time.


    Izak Reply:

    But how can a future event be a proof of anything?

    Also: if understanding the time frame is not an issue, then the observation that this system will die becomes disappointingly mundane. Everything dies.


    Scharlach Reply:

    Speaking in generalities as I was, I get the point you’re making. But, first, not all “systems” die. Hinduism and monogamous marriage, for example.

    Second, the systems we’re talking about here are specific to post-industrial Western society: ever-expanding welfare payments, fiat currency, subsidized loans for worthless college degrees, lax immigration enforcement, and so on and so forth, all of which are consciously enacted policies that somehow fail to to take reality into consideration. We should therefore expect these “systems” to stop working at some point. One can imagine a reactionary in ancient Rome saying something similar about the corn dole. “It works great until it doesn’t.”

    It’s important not to talk about these things too abstractly, you’re absolutely right, because otherwise the concept of “collapse” becomes inseparable from the general and inexorable movement of socio-cultural evolution.

    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 11:34 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kgaard Says:

    Charles Hugh Smith is basically a dolt … but I do like the concept of “trust webs” as outlined in that paper Nick linked to recently. The end of fiat is not going to come via some spectacular crash, but rather through some sort of obviation of the existing system, via some kind of automatic indexing or benchmarking that occurs in the electronic payment system. Bitcoin is structurally flawed (no way to properly balance supply and demand of currency) but the trust web concept it embodies makes a lot of sense.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 11:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    “The fact it hasn’t already done so, however, is a puzzle of extraordinary profundity. ”

    Interest. Survival is the core interest.

    Reckoning can’t be put off forever. It can be delayed. It helps to control the narrative, to which your town criers of the media are wedded as is their fate.

    Our Financial Situation is a suicide bomb our elites have strapped around themselves, the old fashioned suicide bomb of “anybody touches me the whole place goes.” Their problem is the place is going anyway.


    Posted on February 19th, 2015 at 11:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • Apocalypse Delayed | Says:

    […] A problem distilled by admin: […]

    Posted on February 20th, 2015 at 3:11 pm Reply | Quote
  • This Week in Reaction (2015/02/20) | The Reactivity Place Says:

    […] Scharlach says to expect Apocalypse Delayed even as Nick Land seems to be enjoying the Suspense. […]

    Posted on February 21st, 2015 at 7:47 am Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    It’s the Outside that makes collapse inevitable. Every-day reality isn’t the Outside, its just the hidden part of the system that produces decline and immiseration. The decline could probably go on indefinitely, except that the Outside suddenly intervenes and the truth is revealed. The Outside is barbarians, enemy states, natural disasters, climate change, anything that a robust society could probably handle but that the state of decline can’t.

    Institutions below the society scale also extend and pretend. For them, the Outside can be things like depressions and recessions. War and Panics are the Truth.


    Posted on February 21st, 2015 at 2:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alia D. Says:

    In one of James H. Schmitz’s Telzey Amberdon stories Telzey is trapped on a mad scientist’s private island. She meets two gardeners and tries to bribe them to help her get off the island. They explain that they already have astronomical bank balances waiting for them back on the mainland. But all the communication off the island goes through the computer controlled by the mad scientist’s evil AI. So it seems obvious to Telzey that immediately deduces that the computer has been feeding them false information and the back accounts are non-existent. But the gardeners haven’t had any non-contaminated source of information for so long, and besides they don’t want to trade in their dream life for a world of deadly danger. Telzey can’t convince them and has to find another way off the island.
    Economics studies what actually motivates people to be productive and generate mutually useful utility. But humans can be motivated just as much by what they are deceived into thinking is real as by what is actually real. As long as people stay convinced that stores of value showing on their computer screen actually represents something real somewhere, they will stay motivated by it.
    And there is nothing to provide a check on the unreality because all possible stores of value are being manipulated or distorted in one way or another: stocks, bond, currency, precious metals, other commodities, art, real estate. Take for instance one of the traditional havens, US Treasury bonds. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago it was possible to argue that one day the US would pay back all its debts at something like real value. But anyone how thinks this is possible now is not paying attention to reality. But through habit, herd pressure, and a lack of alternatives this is still being treated as if is a flight to value destination.
    The system is being supported by things like the substantial slice of the money in the market today that is money that must be invested in financial interments for legal or contractual reasons. It’s in IRAs or pension funds, it’s backing insurance pools or annuities. I can move from stocks to bonds and back again but it can’t get out of the spreading whirlpool of the financial sector without professional managers throwing up their hands and admitting that the whole world’s financial instruments have become one giant Ponzi scheme. This money is acting like a greater fool of last resort to stabilize the system.
    It’s against practically everyone’s short term best interests to admit that we can’t, after all, get around the problem of moth and rust to store up treasure on earth. Everyone with any position of influence has some sort of stake in perpetuating the myth that there can some cost free, risk free way of storing value. The contrary reality is going to have to trickle out slowing into our philosophy and culture before people’s behaviors can be reality based again.


    Posted on February 21st, 2015 at 7:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • A Prophet Says:

    Perhaps Capitalism knows how to extend the charade just long enough so that when the human catastrophe is finally allowed to happen the system will be prepared by that point to stay on its own accelerationist trajectory, even without the old labor force models making it all “go.” Maybe capitalism is smarter than we are and needs the bloated, dysfunctional liberal welfare state at the moment to function and set off automation’s hyper-deflationist tendencies which would otherwise threaten technological progress. Worse for us, good for Hydra. When the capital accumulation mechanisms no longer need us at all, that’s when it cuts the cord and lets us eat it. The Singularity isn’t yet fully automated, and Hydra is working around this snag. So she allows the thing to keep running, however morbidly, while granting the Singularitarian techno-alchemists of Silicon Valley the resources to set up Capitalism’s real-end game. (The best chess endings are both surprising and inevitable. We’ve got a Brisbane Bombshell heading our way. That Second Rook is just waiting to fly down the board like a pouncing tiger after stalking her prey.) All economists were wrong. It was never about us.


    Posted on February 22nd, 2015 at 7:51 am Reply | Quote

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