We’re all doomed

So you’re back in the stock market, thinking about a bigger house and preparing for the thrill of paying a whole new round of taxes on your bonus? Stop. Be afraid. It isn’t just that we’re back in a bubble, that soaring government debt is going to push up interest rates in the US and UK, that investors are making the exact same mistakes as before the crisism, or that yet another round of US house price falls is being predicted. According to a series of doom-mongers, civilisational breakdown may not be far away.

Paul Farrell at MarketWatch has produced an excellent round-up of the most apocalyptic forecasts from mainstream gloomsters. Most are about the likelihood of a double-dip recession/depression, but two go further:

11. Biggs: Sell everything, buy guns, food, head for the hills
In his 2008 bestseller “Wealth, War and Wisdom” former Morgan Stanley research guru Barton Biggs warns us to prepare for a “breakdown of civilization … Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food … It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc … A few rounds over the approaching brigands’ heads would probably be a compelling persuader that there are easier farms to pillage.” Biggs sounds like an anarchist militiaman.

12. Diamond: Nations ignore obvious till it’s too late, then collapse
The end will be swift. In our age of short-term consumerism and instant gratification, few hear the warnings of our favorite evolutionary biologist, Jared Diamond. Societies fail because they’re unprepared, will be in denial till it’s too late: “Civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Indeed, a society’s demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power.”

The BBC is helping to dampen the general economic mood further, showing John Wyndham’s apocalyptic Day of the Triffids over Christmas to scare viewers, and starting a new series of Survivors, its post-flu survivalist show guaranteed to have watchers thinking about buying farms and guns (not to mention Tamiflu). Perhaps now is a good time to re-read the excellent FT holiday piece by Bryan Ward-Perkins about how much worse a civilisational collapse would be today, compared to the 800-year recession of the Dark Ages.

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Christopher Cook is an FT editorial writer. Before joining the FT in 2008 as a Peter Martin Fellow, he worked for three years for the Conservative party.

Lorien Kite is deputy comment editor, a post he took up in 2009 after four years as a commissioning editor on the analysis page. He joined the FT in 2000.

Ian Holdsworth became assistant features editor in 2009 and was previously chief production journalist for the features pages.


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