Beware of Pollyannas who spout that "the recession has bottomed, inflationary forces are almost wrung out of the economy, and we can expect healthy growth once again by fall". It just ain't that easy to expand a nation's — or the world's — economic base anymore and, even if it were, too many' people now know that such growth — in real terms — is very seldom healthy.
Leading European and Japanese economists are beginning to suspect that current economic troubles might well be a prelude to a greater worldwide downturn coupled with yet another round of steeply rising prices.
Even some U.S.forecasters (see William Wolman's Economic Diary in the May 26 Business Week) have begun to hint that the U.S. economic outlook may be in a "staircase recession", a slump that falls, levels off, then falls again. All while inflation continues to eat away at the value of paper currency.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS FORECAST:
Meat, oil, automobile, and other key prices will go up again this fall, pulling still more prices up with them. Unemployment will remain high for months. More giant corporations will have to be bailed out of financial trouble. More and more people will demand that the government "do something to get this country moving again", and actions taken in response to the plea will continue to do more harm than good. Expect the squeeze on older people and others living on fixed incomes to tighten, despite increases in social security and other such payments. Expect crime to rise. Expect the quality of life, in general, to fall during the months ahead.
THE U.S. ECONOMIC OUTLOOK:
Just as Walter Prescott Webb predicted 25 years ago (see The Plowboy Interview in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 32), Western Man's 450-year–long expansionary binge — which was fueled by cheap, plentiful energy and other resources — is now drawing to a close. And, just as predicted, the industrialized nations of the world are having a difficult time understanding what is happening to them. The sooner our "leaders" realize this and begin converting the world's countries to a steady-state economy, the better.
Still, there's no need for you to wait until those leaders wise up. The time was never better for you and your family to make the necessary conversion on your own. If you haven't already done so, learn to become as food and energy self-sufficient as possible and do it. Strive, also, for economic self-sufficiency: Learn a basic trade or set up a home business that will always be in demand and which you or your family can control. Pay off all bills. Tear up credit cards. Put yourself on a pay-as-you-go basis. Stock up on quality tools and books that will help you live better for less by growing your own food, building the things you need, etc.
It seems a certainty that we'll all be walking a tightrope between potentially catastrophic economic busts and just as potentially catastrophic booms during at least the next ten years. Those who insulate themselves best from our "modern, interdependent" way of life will probably fare best during the roller-coaster ride ahead. .
And what if the worst of either extreme — boom or bust — doesn't come to pass? Great! You'll still be ahead of the game as you enjoy the satisfactions of self-sufficiency and independence. Economic virtue — even in "normal" times — is its own reward.