I subscribe to a survivalist/prepper blog called ITS Tactical (because I’m planning on becoming an unstoppable special forces commando as soon as I finish this bag of Doritos). They recently published a post on surviving cold weather conditions. As the post described symptoms associated with the onset of hypothermia, it struck me that the descriptions are a pretty accurate parallel for the way things might go in a dying economy.
98.6 °F – Normal operation
Here the economy is chugging along. Hard work and innovation are encouraged and rewarded. Successful businessmen are respected and admired. Parents raise their children to be self-sufficient, contributing members of society by the time they’re 20 or so. The laws of economics are in sync with the priorities of the culture. As a result, jobs are available in a steadily growing economy that meets the needs of the vast majority of the people. God is in His heaven; all is right with the world.
97.0 °F – Mental impairment; poor judgment
Here’s where things are maybe chugging along a little too well. The economy is producing a surplus so bountiful that it gives birth to a parasite class of sluggards, professional activists, and lawyers, all of whom spend their waking hours trying to devise ever more creative ways to move assets from the productive parts of the economy to the unproductive parts. Percentage-wise, though, their activities affect just a tiny part of the economy. Most people scoff at them and go about their business.
96.0 °F – Onset of shivering; increased metabolism
Economy still growing at a pretty good clip. However, politicians begin to realize that the parasite class is a pretty reliable voting block. More and more government programs are devised to cater to the needs of people who don’t contribute to the economy in an effort to win their votes. When taxpayers complain about this use of their tax money, they’re derided as selfish and uncaring. They continue to work hard — even harder than before, to overcome the tax burden — but deep in the back of their minds, they start to suspect that they’re being played for suckers.
94.0 °F – Gross motor skill impairment leading to stumbling and increased shivering; no self protection
Politicians abandon all pretense of subtlety in pursuit of parasite class votes. Great efforts are made to remove the “stigma” of receiving money that has been confiscated from one’s fellow citizens by force of law. A guy runs for president claiming to be especially qualified because of his time as a “community organizer” — someone who professionally agitated for more government handouts. And he wins. Twice.
92.0 °F – Difficulty walking; severe shivering
The culture begins to decide that it’s better to be on the receiving end of government largess. People look forward to going on disability the way previous generations used to look forward to getting a promotion at work. Parents are delighted at the opportunity to claim their children as dependents through age 26.
90.0 °F – On ground with convulsive shivering
National leaders are openly disdainful of people who operate businesses for profit. Academics scoff at the idea that people should have to work for a living. People who do are said to be in the unfortunate clutches of “job lock” and looked upon with pity. Unemployment drops because nobody bothers to look for work anymore.
86.0 °F – Shivering stops; coma; curtains
When you say, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” eventually everybody figures out that it’s better to be needful than able. Lucky thing that could never happen here, huh?