Posted On: Monday - January 27th 2020 11:22PM MST
In Topics:   Global Financial Stupidity  Preppers and Prepping  Economics  Liberty/Libertarianism  The Future  Books
(Book review continued from Intro, Part 2, and from Part 3)
This post will finally be on the money, so to speak, with regard to the great prepper novel The Mandibles. That is, we will concern ourselves with the money, the economics pondered in the book and the downfall of America due to it.
We left off with that storyline of the developing countrywide SHTF situation due to US President calling for a renunciation of all debts in US dollars. Now, this renunciation wasn't really the problem itself, as it was just a reaction to the dollar becoming worthless and countries trading in the "Bancor" and other currencies to avoid the dollar. As in real life, yes, that's bound to happen when the dollars are made up out of thin air and backed by nothing. The other way out for governments is to let the currency inflate (as in the value deflating) to nothing on its own.
As a quick aside, I can't help but figure the author Lionel Shriver had read her fair share of ZeroHedge.com before writing this novel, especially the '11-'15 version of the site, in my opinion their heyday of great Global Financial Stupidity reporting. The site had the best commenters back then too! Since this book was published in '16, that could indeed be the case. Good stuff!
Another cool thing about this book is that it seems to make a parallel of sorts between the economic turmoil of the story and the century-earlier turmoil of the Great Depression (1.0?). The years are pretty similar, with the initial profile of the family after the "Stonage" in '29 and the really bad stuff coming in this book in the early '30s. That's 2029 and 2030's for you old timers with the 20th century still fresh in your minds! The US Government itself starts behaving exactly like that of the Socialist Franklin Roosevelt administration. There's even a confiscation of gold, which I'll get to a bit later, that matches what was done, not very successfully, by FDR and his minions.
Capital controls to keep real money in the country are instituted, some of this before the renunciation. Here, the author, with her conversations among the family members, does a great job with the debate among their glee at those richies getting their due as they try to leave the airports with wads of cash, and the idea that "hey, maybe some of these people were productive thrifty people" like us. After all, that the wealth in the Mandible family, held by Douglas, the "Great-Grand-Man" has dissipated to nothing is quite a blow to the boomer couple and next-gen 2 sisters who had always had this inheritance in the backs of their minds as an out from the financial pain.
Yep, there are new policies made to deal with this new economy, with its disparity of wealth between the old Boomers and the younger people who are G.D. 1.0 levels of poverty. It's all seen from the vantage point of Brooklyn in New York City, again not the place to be (but the writer is writing of what she knows here). Things get Socialistic in a hurry (you thought they couldn't get more?) One difference between the 1930's depression and that in the book is that in those old times something around 1/3 of Americans lived on farmland, making their living at it. As it stands now, the country is majority urban, and only a percentage point or two of American work in agriculture directly.
The story goes on, and in these mid-2030s, those Brooklyn folks eventually start running out of everything, and the value of farmland and the farm life style that brother Jared (remember Jared?) decided to join years before. As far as the Mandible family goes, at this point all 4 generations, in various combinations have had to move in together. The extreme downgrade in lifestyle is described for many pages. As usual, we don't hear about any men who can actually do that hands-on work to fix things or make improvements. I guess Florence's Lat boyfriend is not much of a handyman even.
Things get worse and worse, as any kind of stored-up items for consumption or barter run out ... oh, then the whole crowd gets "evicted" from their house by one man with his family and a gun. I will have to say that the "Brooklyn and London based" author, as would be typical, doesn't know much about guns, as the teenage Willing obtains a revolver with some kind of high-tech name. Excuse me, but that doesn't sound right, or even that 15 years from now that is the easiest hand-gun to obtain. Would it not be an old Glock or Bersa?
That minor quibble over, the point about the SHFT and prepping that the author gets pretty well is that no matter how much is stored and perhaps protected with guys on a big rural compound, stuff will eventually run out, even if not for a long time. The real preppers will tell you that it's not just about Beans, Bullets, and Band-aids, but also about building Community (can't think of 2 more appropriate "C"s, but I'm sure they could.) As I've written, living in the city just does not work for a real prepper, unless part of the plan is to bug out when the economic crash starts - better have some good timing.
Speaking of bugging out, the family ends up making an epic trek something like 50 miles upstate to the farm "belonging" to the brother Jared. "Belonging" is in quotes because by this point the FDR-2.0 administration has done something they might have liked to have done in the 1930s, but could not due to, yes, an armed mostly rural population that could take care of themselves. They have done the Mao/Soviet thing, collectivizing the farms "for the good of the people", of course. Jared is even more pissed at the system than usual and the family members have to work like 1960s Chinamen.
Back to the parallels with FDR's Great Depression 100 years before the storyline, one more cool thing is the talk about the Gold Standard. This is in the form of conversations among this economics-aware family. The Mandibles are like a family of graduate econ. students in a seminar class, consisting of a Keynesian, a couple of All-But-Dissertation half-wits, and a teenage budding Ron Paul. It was good to hear about what real money is about in a novel like this.
In the story, the US Gov't requires all gold to be turned into the government. As mentioned above, a fairly unsuccessful attempt to do the same thing was implemented by FDR. The confiscation was fairly unsuccessful because people then knew the US Gov't was not able to have the local law come knocking on doors for the stuff. I don't think the government got but a small minority of the stuff, and sure enough, when it was over, FDR had screwed the people out of the value of their money by devaluing it from $20 per ounce of gold to $35. In the century-later story, the confiscation attempt was successful due to Police State tactics (pretty likely), yet not many people had gold to begin with, a pretty good extrapolation of today's mentality.
Unfortunately, based on some talk among the characters near the end of the book, not to spoil it too much, Miss Shriver still does not understand the gold standard! I'll have to explain that in a latter post.
The real problem with the 2030s American economy is never really mentioned either. It's simple. Wealth is not being created. I'm not sure if the author quite understands this, as much as she can foresee our American currency becoming worthless. That's the reason. The foreigners that buy up American assets on the cheap (like American big-wigs did in 1990s Russia) in this story would not be able to do so if the country still had wealth-creating industries that could bring it back to self-sufficiency.
One more post of this long dragged-out book review will come shortly.