James Howard Kunstler returns to the podcast this week, observing that despite the baton being handed to a new American president, the massive predicaments we face as a society remain the same. And it seems the incoming administration is just as in denial of them as the old.
Kunstler adds fresh critique to his now decades-old warning that we are sleepwalking our way deep into the Long Emergency. The longer we delude ourselves and waste our energies in pursuit of reviving the failed “endless growth” model, the farther our journey back to a sustainable way of living will be when our current system collapses:
I don’t think there is any sense that they really know where we’re headed, what our destination is, and what the imperatives are and what the future is actually telling us that we need to do. Don’t forget that the so-called psychology of previous investment is a very powerful force in American life and it’s prompting us to do everything we can to maintain the investments we’ve already made. Those investments are the ones I have already mentioned: the freeways, the suburban housing developments, the strip malls.
A lot of the hope pinned on Trump is based on the idea that he’s assembling this team of mega-competent capitalist movers and shakers who know how to make deals — the Wilbur Rosses and Rex Tillersons of the world — and that they are going to conjure up a tremendous surge of economic activity that will be majorly fruitful going forward in the future and produce a tremendous amount of new wealth. Of course the stock market has been pricing that in. But if you really drill down and look what’s going on there, especially the infrastructure plans, the idea that we’re going to revive American manufacturing — and especially the idea that we’re going to rebuild the happy motoring infrastructure so that we can have 50 more years of that — that, it seems to me, would amount to once again repeating the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.
The last thing that America needs to do is to desperately try to maintain its suburban matrix. There are many other things we can do and ought to do, including reviving main street communities. One of the things we have to think about is reviving the small towns and small cities in American because those are the places of the greatest disinvestment over the last 30 years and we’re going to need them very badly as the global economy withers. It’s not going to disappear; there’s still going to be trade between nations, I believe, outside of some kind of major set of kinetic war conflicts, but we’re going to see the economy of North America turn inward and become more focused on what we can do here. One of the things that that suggests is that we’re going to have to do more with some of the assets and virtues that we have, mainly our inland waterway system because that’s going to also have to take the place of the trucking industry, which is going to be failing over the next 20 years.