Why We “Doom and Gloom”

For whatever reason, libertarianism and the liberty movement attracts and engenders what you might call the “Doom and Gloom” mentality. It’s the survivalist perspective, i.e. the end of the world is nigh. The centerpiece of this mentality is The Crash.

If I were to describe The Crash™, it would be as follows:

A complete implosion of cultural, social, economic and political institutions, resulting in massive instability, lawlessness, and civil unrest, particularly in urban areas. Governments either transform into outright totalitarian regimes reminiscent of 1984 or collapse like the Soviet Union in 1991. Depending on the circumstances, the impact on basic services and utilities can range from minimal to extreme, in which water, electricity, and Internet are shut down. The Crash can occur suddenly, within a day, or take several days before it is obvious. While people differ in the specifics, the underlying premise is that all these institutions are on unsustainable paths, with the consequences delayed through various methods. The Crash comes because those consequences can be postponed no longer.

It makes sense. Accepting libertarian philosophy logically requires you to view the world on some level from a pessimistic outlook. Things are so far removed from what they should be that it becomes difficult to live day to live without having to suppress some of those attitudes in order to function and interact with other people.

I’ve given this idea a lot of thought over the past couple of months, having looked at the prospect of a cultural collapse preceding an economic one. I think the culture collapse is actually already happening and will continue to occur over a long period of time, but that is another topic for another time. I’m starting to think that much of the “doom and gloom” talk we hear, however, is on some level wishful thinking. They may well be right in the end, but the main reason for believing it is because they want it to happen.

Why We “Doom and Gloom”

We all know the status quo can’t be maintained indefinitely. We can’t keep running up a national debt, increasing illegitimacy, government dependency, social dysfunction, destruction of the family, the reliance on credit to finance unrealistic lifestyles. The show may go on for now, but not forever.

Some would prefer it come to a halt all at once, in a grand, spectacular fashion, rather than slowly over a painfully prolonged period of time in small intervals that are hardly noticeable until examined decades later when they are placed in the proper context.

A lot of people are simply exhausted. They’re profoundly dissatisfied with where things are going in every aspect of life. Maybe they’re victims of the system we have in place.

The banality of modern life should not be easily dismissed. For most people, nothing exceptionally exciting happens. They get up, sit through traffic, work their 9-5 job, endure the commute back, then go home and deal with countless mindless, requisite tasks that provide no greater meaning before they go to sleep, only to repeat it again until they’re set to retire and realize life has passed them by. Humans desire something greater. Certain people are more interested in living than in longevity, and the thought of experiencing something, anything, even if it’s difficult and dangerous, beats slugging out a tedious, mundane existence in a cubicle prison cell. Historically, young men volunteer for wars not just because of patriotism or a sense of duty, but because they’re looking for something adventurous. As counterintuitive as it may seem, dying alone on some remote battlefield in anguish was preferable to a mundane life on a rural farm.

I appreciate the appeal of a “Red Dawn” type scenario embraced by so many preppers. It removes all the inane complications in life and leaves you with the simplistic focus on survival. But just because I want something to happen doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

There’s also the desire for vindication. In every “disaster” movie you have the staple “I warned you all but you didn’t listen” character who gets his moment to shine as everything goes to hell. When it comes to the story of government, libertarians are that character. Having been ridiculed and mocked for pointing out the instability of our current path, and having watched as the inevitable is delayed again and again by public debt and artificially low interests rates and government intrusion into social institutions, some have waited as long as the radio listener in One Crazy Summer to be proven right. Not only are they impatient, but they’re terrified they will die before ever getting the satisfaction.

And don’t forget the money. Always follow the money. As someone who bought into the 2013 gun scare, I personally observed how certain businesses profited off of the fear and loathing (to borrow a phrase from Thompson) and uncertainty. Go to a gun show and casually observe the products being sold besides firearms.

What It Means to “Be Prepared”

Now, I’m not making the prediction that The Crash won’t happen tomorrow, or a year from now. It might. I make no specific predictions in terms of what will happen, and that’s the point. Although I’m preparing for a less pleasant future (read Enjoy the Decline to find out how), I’m not waiting for something specific as The Crash to happen.

One of the things that got me thinking about this was examining all the predictions of doom and gloom throughout history. People thought in 1000 A.D. the end of the world was nigh. So did European nations in World War I/II. Then Americans thought the Cold War would bring in the end times. It is part of the human experience. As bad as the 2008 economic collapse was, it didn’t result in any collapse.

But the system is still up. It may remain up for another decade. Or another day. Who knows?

I know I don’t know.

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7 Responses to Why We “Doom and Gloom”

  1. I personally find it a constant struggle when discussing matters of politics to remain in a good mood. I try to laugh it off and shrug the ridiculousness of current global politics off, but when you think about what is really at stake and what is happening to good people all over the world because the various ideologies of the state, it is very difficult to remain unmoved.

    All the lives ended or otherwise ruined because of the complete abandonment or denial of natural rights and the non-aggression principle. All the lies, myths and erroneous logic that leads otherwise good people to do or advocate horrible things. All the current governmental policies reinforcing this trend, while maintaining the rhetoric of freedom and free markets. The intellectual elite who, through the state university system, bend the vast majority of promising young minds to the winds of statism. The entitlement mentality so carefully nurtured and rewarded by the state, turning vast numbers of people into husks of themselves while they receive their measly pittance in return for casting their vote to maintain the status quo.

    It is tough to shrug off.

    I often wonder if I should strive to be like Mises, who remained jovial and optimistic in the face of so much opposition and utter insanity, or if I should be more like Zach de la Rocha, who despite his socialist mentality, was very anti-state in general and wasn’t afraid to let his emotions rage.

    In other words, is anger a gift, or should we strive to keep our composure in the face of such events? I suppose the libertarian answer is for each of us to decide for ourselves. The worst thing a libertarian can become is the defeated pessimist who let’s the world around him diminish his own life and that of those around him. To guard against this outcome, I like to keep in mind the motto of Mises:

    “Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito” or “do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.”

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    • The Question says:

      I like Mises’ take on the matter. There was also Murray Rothbard, who seemed unfazed by anything and everything. It depends on where one places their happiness. If it’s contingent on the political situation, then one is bound to be perpetually unhappy. But if it is placed on personal accomplishments, private relationships, loved ones, and other things, then it is possible to enjoy life regardless of what goes on beyond your control.

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      • Yeah Murray was certainly irrepressible. He was such a wonderful example of how to wage an intellectual war against the state while maintaining good spirits and good relationships. I think more and more that that is the key to defeating the state: don’t let the state change you, unless it is for the better.

        I often wonder how much better off the liberty movement would be today if he had lived 30 more years. Three more decades of his rigorous logic, focus, and economic insight exposing the contradictions and vested interests of the arguments of the intellectual legerdemains of the state like Krugman, Bernanke, and Rogoff. Three more decades of his ethical battle against neo-conservatism and militarism in general. He died much too early, and the world is diminished because of it.

        Although someone said in a book written in memoriam of Rothbard, that his death didn’t leave a gaping hole in the liberty movement, as some close colleagues believed at the time, but instead a grand mountain, which may be easily climbed and upon which others may see further and with less effort.

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      • The Question says:

        At the same time, with the way traditional libertarians like Ron Paul have been treated by the charlatans, shysters, and frauds trying to take over the liberty movement, it would have been disgraceful to see a great man like Rothbard get attacked by a bunch of anti-intellectual progressives in a mad scramble to stand on top of his accomplishments.

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