The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Understanding and Surviving the Post-Prosperity Era

I don’t usually write about my personal life much, but today will be an exception.

The other day I had to go the hospital, to a cancer clinic (nothing to sweat, I have a type of cancer with a 98% survival rate) and the clinic I was at had only one doctor. It normally has three or four. I asked the nurse, and she told me that the others were out with Covid.

Emergency departments across Canada are having shut-downs because they don’t have enough nurses. Covid, either temporary, or nurses having quit because they can’t take the over-work any more.

Before Covid, at the same hospital I’m going to now, imaging tests for possible cancer got done in a month. After Covid, it was about 8 months, and treatment didn’t start until about 11 months. Before, 2 months.

As I say, I’ll probably live, but if I die of cancer, it will be because of, not Covid, but because of the way Covid was mishandled. For cancer, how fast you act matters. Taking an extra 9 months to start treatment isn’t a small thing: it’s a lot of dead people.

If I die, it’s a marginal (or excess) death. It doesn’t get put down as Covid, and it isn’t, but it is because of how Covid was mishandled.

And, of course, what is the government response to hospitals being slammed “we should get the private sector to do some of this stuff.” Classic neoliberalism: “make service shitty, then privatize.”

But this sort of thing is all across the spectrum. I’ve got friends on the edge, people who would have been OK ten years ago, who are now not OK. The cheap places for rent have mostly gone away; generally speaking rent at the bottom end in Greater Toronto is up about 80 to 100%, if you can find anything at all at the bottom price ranges.

More homeless people. More people paying most of their wage on rent and skimping on food and dental and medicines, because universal health care doesn’t cover dental, and Canadian drug prices are bad, just not completely “American whacked.”

As conditions get worse, people who would have made it, don’t: they get pushed off the edge, because there isn’t as much “safe” space. Homeless, sick, dead, poor.

I’m poor, have been for somewhat less than a decade now, and I’ve been poor in the past, particularly in the early 90s. (In the old days I didn’t ask readers to funds, because I didn’t need to.) I don’t use social support other than some help for cancer meds but when you’re poor, who you know includes other poor people

This period is far worse for people on the margins than the early 90s were, and they were, anecdotally and statistically, worse than the 70s.

So there are more homeless.  More dead people. People who under previous regimes would have made it, stayed housed, stayed healthy, stayed alive, aren’t.

It’s a trend, it’s been a trend for over 40 years now, but it’s an accelerating trend.

The rich are running out of money to take. In America and the UK they’ve shattered the middle and working classes, In Canada and much of the rest of the world they’re working on it. I’d guess Canada has 15 to 20 years before it reaches about where the UK is now, and where the UK is that they’re going to slide to 3rd world status. In principle it can be turned around, but in practice it’s unlikely to be. That’s why I supported Corbyn so hard, because he was the last chance they were going to get.

This trend is accelerated by climate change, and by the insistence on fighting a cold war with China and Russia. Right now the primary target is Russia, yes, but the real target in China. Breaking Russia would weaken China massively, and China is the actual threat to the current hegemonic structure, not Russia, which is not a superpower any more, just a great power (and a fairly weak great power in certain ways.)

The point here is that the way the elites are running the world, and most nations, and Canada where I live is a direct threat to my life at this point, and to many many other people. I have joked that I’m damn glad I got cancer now, because even though treatment is delayed, I’m getting it. In 10 years, I don’t know. I’m seeing stories in the UK of people who have to go private because the NHS is so overwhelmed.

To state what’s obvious private isn’t some miracle. It doesn’t create resources the society doesn’t have, it just distributes them differently: to those who can pay. In fact, generally speaking private uses more resources, because it has to make a profit.

Meanwhile the fact is that the world’s resources are actually shrinking. When climate change dries up rivers and burns up forests and increases bad weather and droughts; when aquifers go dry and glaciers and snow packs(resevoirs of water) diminish and die; when biodiversity crashes and fish stocks go away, the real resources we need to survive are being reduced, close to permanently, since recovery will take a long time even where it is possible.

With people having less resources, they can withstand less shocks, and with resources concentrated at the very top end, many people can’t take hits. More and more people are one hit away from homelessnes or death, and to top it all off Long Covid disablement is soaring and will soon be in the double digits in many Western nations.

This is, then, the culling. It’s been going on for a long time, but it’s speeding up. I wrote for a couple decades to warn other people, and now I can see my personal horizon: I can see when I’ll be on the edge. I’m already on the edge, really, as my emergency fundraiser (a first) and the delays in my cancer treatment show. I used to be able to keep other people out of poverty with help, now the aid I can give is restricted. I’m no longer much of a material resource for other (though I help with showers and food and sleep).

But this isn’t mostly about me, it’s about a lot of people being pushed towards the cliff. It’s about you and people you know. Even a lot of people in the middle class have no resiliency left: one bad bounce and off the cliff they go.

The next stage is the elites turning on each other. Having stolen all the fat and most of the muscle of the lower and middle class, they’re going to see no choice but start chewing on societies organs and to start seriously preying on each other, because there’s hardly any reserve left. In the UK, the NHS is the only major thing left worth selling. Once that’s gone, there’s nothing left to loot. All the stuff worth having will be held by other rich people.

Now, there are a few points here, and readers will have picked out some of them, but let’s state a couple clearly.

First, a lot of people, a hell of a lot of people, aren’t going to make it. If you want to not be one of them; if you want your friends and other people you care about not to be one of them, you’re going to need to do something. Probably the best thing is to organize in groups. Do what you can to help yourselves, and make it clear to the rich and powerful that  your problems are theirs: that if you get pushed off the cliff, you’re going to make it hurt them.

The second is that on the mass scale, it’s now us or our elites. They go, or we go, and they want it to be us.

Plan for this era. Climate change is now and it’s just going to get worse and our elites are going to become greater and greater predators, trying to liquidate everything they can find to keep themselves in power.

Remember that personal resilence has its limits: you need other people who care about you and have the ability to help. You need more than family, you need a community, a group and that group needs to take care of its prosperity and have a commitment to caring for its own people.

We did that thru government for a long time, but government isn’t going to hack it for a lot of people. When times like that happen, you form your own mini-governments to do what larger society won’t.

It’s sad, it’s bad, and it’s what millions of people, including myself, spent our lives fighting to avoid, but it’s here and that’s just how it is. Even if some societies turn it around and start doing the right thing, it’s unsure which ones those will be and by the time they get to it, if you aren’t caring for yourself and your chosen group, you may be dead or on the street.

And understand that everyone’s doing the wrong thing. No major society is taking this seriously. When they stop building suburbs and stop pushing cars and stop allowing planned obsolescence, you’ll know they’re serious. No government which has not done at least those three thing is serious, and since our entire economy is built around cars, real-estate expansion and throwing shit out which was designed to last only a few years, we haven’t even started.

Be well, take care of yourselves, and if you can, please organize and take care of others.




Lazy V.S. Uninterested & Quiet Quitting


Open Thread


  1. rkka

    Yeltsin’s Russia was like this, the Russian proteges of our oligarchs asset stripping the place bare & offshoring into the Western financial system. And boy, did they howl when Putin made examples of the likes of Berezovsky & Khodorkovsky! And with Russia’s remaining oligarchs oligarchs tending more to pay their taxes and treating their enterprises like a going concern rather than a personal cash cow, Russia has recovered a lot. Ukraine OTOH, has continued its Yeltsin-type death spiral.

    That’s the big reason the Oligarch-ridden West has such incandescent hatred of Putin.

  2. NL


    No, Putin have never challenged the oligarchy, he saved it by drawing attention to himself away from it and personally projecting power, smarts and virility. Lots of people have bought into the image of a robust and competent president. Now, he is too old to project virility but can’t seem to project wisdom, so he seems to have had too many plastic surgeries on his face to project youthfulness — his face is all puffed up like an aged rock star and he can’t really open his eyes because of all the facelifts. This is the same politics as here: focus on personality and away from policies.

    Khodorkovsky have never been an oligarch. He had pretended to be an oligarch and managed money on behalf of a foreign entity — apparently it was a Rothschild bank. Google it, this is not deep conspiracy. There are various versions of the story now: upon his arrest, Khodorkovsky gave Rothschild the power of attorney or gave all his shares. The one I read when it happened was that Rothschild wanted its money back, because it was theirs and Khodorkovsky just managed the money, which he was given to buy up Soviet Union industry. Berezovsky was likewise a ‘strange’ figure. I suspect many of the original oligarchs were figureheads of foreign buyers, because foreigners were excluded from Soviet Union asset privatization in the earliest rounds. But for every Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky, there are hundreds of Abramovich.

    From an article: “Transparency International, Russians who have been accused of corruption or of having links to the Kremlin have bought at least 1.5 billion pounds’ worth of property in Great Britain.” And “Sanctioned Russian oligarchs linked to £800m worth of UK property.”

    The reason the Russian ruble did not turn to rubble was really not because of the requirement to pay for Russian gas in rubles — no — look, little if any Russian gas now goes to Europe, and the ruble is still not rubble — why is that? The true reason was and is that money transfer from Russia abroad stopped because of the sanctions. The Russian oligarchs treated Russia like a colony and lived in London and elsewhere, where they supported themselves by money earned in and transferred from Russia. I suspect Boris and the English are so anti-Russia now, because they have had enough of Russian disdain, impudence and corruption. The sanction was a nice cause to purge the Russians out without their money…

    Anyway, looks like Putin’s regime and his fellow oligarchy overdid it in Ukraine. Many months ago, I coined the sentence “China, Iran and North Korea will fight the West in East Europe to the last Russian”. This seems to be coming to pass. A Chinese military plane was spotted landing near Moscow today — I guess, these are immediate results of the meeting between the Judo man and Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan. This comes on top of the Iranian drones already visible on the battlefield and speculation about North Korean bullets.

    This war will torch the Gorbachev/Yeltsin/Putin oligarchy — it is shaping up that they and their wealth will not survive this war. Couldn’t happen to bunch of better people…

  3. NR

    Best wishes for a full recovery, Ian.

  4. Astrid

    If Covid showed that the West was no better than 80% of other countries (the “better” was mostly East Asia and ANZ, until all but China gave up), the hysteria and lying and loud cries of “Russian disinformation agent” against anyone asking any questions about what happened in Donbas 2014 to 2021 shows that the West is actually much much worse off, despite its apparent prosperity. Annalena Baerbock baldly stating that the economic war against Russia will go on, no matter how hungry, cold, and unemployed the German people get. This is just clearly announcing what rightists and liberals have wanted to do to the bulk of their own populations (and already did to much of the global South via austerity and wars).

    Meanwhile, the rest of the world, even the newly installed coup government of Pakistan and MBS, understand the stakes and seek to maintain or tighten relationships with Russia and China. Our long period of wealth, much of which was built with centuries of immiseration of the global South, is burning all around us. And we think/hope it’s going to be a warm winter. Peoples with a fifth of our per capita GDP may well survive the next 10 years better than we do. Not because they have more resources, but because they are not infested top to bottom by a no longer sustainable view of the world.

    Well, my husband is now triggered whenever I mention the sins of the Democrats and of America. I’m stuck here and will likely die here.

  5. Keith in Modesto

    I, too, hope for your speedy recovery, Ian.

  6. NX

    I watched Children of Men again the other evening. It’s been a long time since I first watched it. It’s a decent movie. Its depiction of the UK in 20 years is spot on in my opinion. Ditto for America. Favelas everywhere the eye can see.

  7. multitude of poors

    So very sorry to hear of your ever increasing precarity in Canada, Ian, wish I could do something—to help you, and so many I know, facing this brutal assault by their own country of residence. Much like you, through many of my years I was helping others in bad times, now I can’t seem to be able to help myself. Every so called Non-Profit helper entity (whether it be for housing issues, food, medical, etcetera) seems loaded to the gills with horrid people in charge making bank (the telltale is usually vetting the Funders; Partners; and the Board of Directors; along with no telephone number for those with no internet access).

    I can’t speak for you, in Canada, but I consider it Murder—at a minimum Manslaughter— of millions, here in the US. Much like a parent would certainly be charged with murder if they starved their child, or the child otherwise died due to their willful neglect. Manslaughter, much like a person who aided and abetted, with malice, someone’s suicide. Once again following California’s lead, as Biden has made so clear with his words; support (e.g. Governor Gavin Newsom); directives; and appointments (e.g. Kamala Harris; Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Dept. of Human Services). No White Paper™ is needed to verify this reality.

    If I am forced, as it very much appears I might be, to live on the cement, I’ll Commit Suicide™ and leave a note that it was not suicide, that The State™ has murdered me and countless others. There is no way I would immolate myself, knowing how horrid burn wounds are; or commit Death by Train unless the only option was a terrifying day to day existence (I wouldn’t know how to access pure fentanyl and be assured that I wouldn’t survive, which would be my preference, much as it appears to be thousands of other’s death of choice).

    The US is culling its kindest, and its most vulnerable (e.g. Cuomo/NY, and Gavin Newsom/CA, regarding Nursing Facility Covid fatality) There’s no other way to look at it when you witness it up close and personal, repeatedly. Further, the US is willfully pushing its younger generations into a life of precarity.

    If I ever win the lottery, which of course I occasionally play because the odds are horrifyingly higher of that keeping me from homelessness than anything else, I will try to send you some of it, Ian, but it has to be snail mail.

    (Note: this is not a solicitation for: advice; a phone number I can dial; nor a pundits paid for commentary; I’ve done months, and months, and months of due diligence on options for myself and those I feel responsible for (all three older than myself), only to be further and further terrified by the lack of them. A kind word or two is always a gift though.)

  8. Bill Reeves

    God, I’m so sorry for you. I wish things were different for us all. I value your warnings and am trying to do the best for my family and expect things to get worse in the next few years at retirement age. I have a brother and his family in England and may need to try to send $ or food before too long. Take great care of yourself, and thank you.

  9. rkka


    Paul Khlebnikov wrote the book on the Yeltsin oligarchs. He thought highly of Putin clamping down on ’em and curbing their untrammeled asset-stripping, which is why he was gunned down.

    Wedel also covers theirYeltsin-era shenanigans, and US complicity in same.

  10. Trinity

    I have this fantasy where we start auctioning off our healthcare to THEM. “Who offers the lowest price and the highest care and outcomes for me?” I think this is why “primary care physicians” are required here in the US, to lock us into a single private equity group who in turn have developed networks (of not necessarily the best providers) for referrals (and kickbacks). This is all on top of the layer of PMC healthcare operators ensuring you are overbilled, overly stressed, and hunted down for your last dollar bill.

    This is from three years ago, but is a great example of what they are trying to do. It happens to be about healthcare, but the process is the same for housing and cars. Next will be food.

    Stay well, Ian, and I also wish you to have a full, complete recovery.

  11. StewartM

    What NL said about Putin’s Russia (except Gorbachev, the social democrat, doesn’t deserve to be lumped with Yeltsin and Putin). I see it, and Orban’s Hungary, as the “obviously autocratic” oligarchic model, that pays lip service to the common good while (fascist-like) it demonizes “the other” as the source of any problem (“Hey don’t blame us who have all the money and power, it’s those [stick in despised minority] ‘them’ who are the problem). Anthropologist Marvin Harris blamed the 16th century witch hysteria over a similar attempt of elites to fob off responsibility from themselve for the plight of commoners to those dastardly ‘witches’. Even better, for it showed people how the PTB were ‘protecting’ you every time they sent an old poor woman up in flames.

    As someone in a bit better condition than most, I can see by my own experience and my family and others how we who still have those ‘good jobs’ are called again and again to bail out friends and relatives who get into trouble. We’ve essentially are privatizing social services.

    I like what you said about cars and suburbs. We need to ditch the former as our means of transportation (and save individuals $$$) and plow under the latter. And I say this as someone who lives in a small town. I don’t see the US as being overpopulated–at least not badly so–but horrible about land usage. Having a larger fraction of the population in cities, and managing them better, frees up good land that has rainfall for farming, plus allows us to let forests (CO2 sinks) to take over land paved over for shopping malls and subdivisions. It also allows for greater wildlife diversity.

    I say this in direct opposition to the meme of “we should all go back to the land and do hardscrabble farming” you see here. Doing so would accelerate die-off, not curtail it, as there are only so people you can support that way. Moving people into the cities, making them affordable and liveable, allows you to both manage waste, use mass transit, and also implement more environmentally friendly policies.

  12. steve

    Hope all works out well for you, peace.

  13. different clue

    Hard times are going to get so bad, and bad times are going to get so hard, that the Bad Times thread won’t be enough to contain all the thoughts and advice. I hope I and others keep offering clearly headered and actionable advice, information, and/or links over there.

    But whole categories of clearly headered and actionable advice, information and/or links may have to be offered in the threads of other posts as well.

    Humans are a pack animal like wolves, not a solitary lone animal like jaguars. A pack ( “band” or “village” or whatever) of humans each pooling their co-compatible and complementary survival skills and knowledge will raise eachothers’ chances of all surviving together than what any one of them would have on their own.

    This post is a very needed and useful warning in that regard.

    People will need to feel there is a reason to survive and something to survive and even live for in order to enhance their chances of surviving. Perhaps people might offer thoughts in this thread about what some actual reasons to survive might be and what might be worth living for in a permanent poverty future. What is some actual good that people might achieve by surviving? Having some such actual good in mind might give ordinary people the morale-boost they need to work at survival when the difference between working-at-it or giving up would spell surviving or not.

    I will suggest a possible example of a possible reason. Successful survival means that a person or even a whole group of people might live long enough to get effective personal physical revenge on some Elite Persons when they emerge back onto the surface from their Underground Luxury Bunkers.

    People who don’t like that as a reason-to-survive can offer kinder gentler more uplifting reasons to survive and goals to live for and to advance.

    One thing people should do if they still can is get every little “elective” health procedure and intervention taken care of while they still can. If teeth could use treatment and you can afford it, get them treated while dentistry still exists. Wouldn’t you rather have a bad tooth extracted with novocaine today rather than have a mule kick you in the jaw tomorrow in hopes of kicking out the bad tooth out?

    For example . . . .

  14. different clue


    Amazonia supported 6 million people living spread out in a huge number of villages and some bigger towns before the Great Explorer Germocaust of the Indians. The explorers who saw it before it all died off don’t mention it being a hardscrabble existence.

    Urban chauvinists should know that if they try to force suburbanites and countrysiders into the highrise cinderblock tenements of their visionary dreams, that the suburbanites and countrysiders will resist with every form of violence at their disposal.

    But if the urban chauvinists still believe in their concrete blockhouse tenement vision for people other than themselves, they will certainly give trying to impose it a whirl.

    Meanwhile, how sustainable or eco-survivable will be the ultra-mechanized hyper-mega-plantations used to feed the tenement-warehoused masses be? And how sustainable will be the hypermechanized transport of all that food from the plantationized countryside to the forced-tenement cities?

  15. Harry Haller

    Re. Mikhail Khodorkovsky

    The idea that Khodorkovsky is squeaky clean and just “pretended to be an oligarch” while managing someone else’s money doesn’t hold up. The subheading of a
    New Yorker article on Khodorkovsky from 2015, written by Julia Ioffe who is sympathetic to him and firmly in the anti-Putin camp, reads Can an exiled oligarch persuade Russia that Putin must go? In the first paragraph of the article one learns that he is “a former oil tycoon and once the richest man in Russia”.

    Nobody becomes a multi-billionaire by accident or because someone does him a favour and Khodorkovsky’s Wikipedia article confirms that. He was the chairman of Yukos ffs. It says nothing about the Rothschild’s or anyone else helping him pretend to be a really rich guy with political influence. He did arrange to transfer his Yukos shares to Jakob Rothschild in the event he could no longer act as a beneficiary of the shares but that was hardly an act of altruism or a “mistake”. From Wikipedia: “By 2003, Khodorkovsky was the richest man in Russia, and potentially on his way to becoming the richest man in the world. In 2004, Forbes placed him 16th on its list of the world’s wealthiest people, with a fortune estimated at $16 billion.”

    Regardless of what one thinks of Putin it simply isn’t true that Khodorkovsky is some sort of innocent naif whose wealth and power came to him by accident. Even his friends and supporters don’t make that claim.

  16. NL

    @Harry Haller
    Where do I write that Khodorkovsky is ‘clean’, whatever that may mean?

    All I was implying was that he had not been a proper part of the group that grabbed the Soviet Union assets but worked for a foreign entity (and may have used money taken from the foreign entity to buy up the assets, hence the foreign entity was the proper owner of the assets) and hence came into conflict with the endogenous group and was jettisoned out. In the end of the day, he was pardoned and released to live abroad — who lobbied on his behalf? Why wasn’t he defenestrated? The Russian oligarchy has been reluctant to submit to our oligarchy, hence the problems. Things got especially bad since the Bushes’ and Putin’s Kennebunkport meeting in 2007. I am guessing the Bushes offered to submit and Putin and hence his regime became furious. I can sort of understand this. The Russian oligarchy in a way believe that they are the inheritors of the Soviet Union, and Soviet Union came out victorious of WWII, so why should the victors submit to us? That’s of course not how we see the matter, we see them as the gang who robbed and dismantled USSR. This war is now a big test whether they can live…

  17. Mark Level

    Best wishes, Ian. Life throws some entropic shite at all of us, of course economic precarity leads to iffy “health care”– a word that is a lie in the U.S., & evidently increasingly in the Canada colony. I would’ve believed Canada would do better until recently, but they do have something on the menu that is definitely not support for human lives. Like their superiors.

  18. Jeremy

    Wow – very moving.
    One of your most profound posts.

    I’m in the UK, and can confirm all that you say about the state of things here.
    We’re about to have a Sterling crisis, along with energy blackouts this winter.
    Our family is emigrating to Mexico .

    Good luck with your treatments.

  19. marku52

    As the Archdruid says, ” if you wonder what collapse looks like, just look around. You are in it now.”
    Yes the rich are running out of things to steal. Turchin argues that revolutions happen as a result of elite overproduction (think PMC), and we sure are getting there quick.

    One minor quibble. I’d argue that Russia is best positioned to do well in the new multipolar world. Plenty of ag land and energy, things that China is very short of. The US could do well too, if it wasn’t run by corrupt morons.

    Best wishes on your health. Lots of folks care about you deeply. you have had an important impact (edit this if you wish as it’s too personal)

  20. anon

    Wishing you a speedy recovery and that you find greater fortune in the future. I’ve always thought that your writings should have a wider audience or that you should be teaching courses in political science, philosophy, and ethics at the university level. Basically, you should be paid a lot more than what you are making for your insights.

  21. different clue


    It may be that the kind of people who have the kind of money to be able to pay for insights are the kind of people who wish to repress, suppress, and “cone-of-silence” Ian Welsh’s insights as much as they can.

    So it becomes up to people without much money to send some if they can, but also to leak awareness of Ian Welsh Blog all around the edges of the Cone Of Silence so the insights spread around in the teeth of whomever would like to keep them suppressed.

    Lateral spread. Cat’s cradle spiderweb of anti-influence. Every spiderweb thread a humming wire of uncontrolled feral information.

  22. different clue

    One of my friendaquaintances and neighbors where I live at told me about a group, or rather a loose group of groups, under the overall concept-name of Black to the Land. It is Black-identified people ( and maybe some other-than-White identified people also) who have come to suspect that the current civilization of supply chains and grocery stores is breaking down and may disappear within the lifetime of middle aged people.

    They are trying to learn-together and discover/rediscover more subsistence and survival skills so that at a bare minimum they might still be able to have some food when food doesn’t come from the store anymore because there is no store anymore for food to come from.

    Search-engining the phrase ” black to the land” finds lots of entries. Here are just a couple . . .

    there’s lots of others.

    And this is an organization for advancing Black land ownership, so there will be some land for Black people to get Black to in the long run, perhaps . . .

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén