Thursday, December 31, 2020

51. Year in Review 2020 — Personal and Macroeconomic

Below is a transcript for my Demographic Doom podcast episode #51 recorded on 28 December 2020 (released on 31 December 2020). It may differ slightly from the final broadcast. This episode is available on major podcast platforms, including PodbeanApple Podcasts and a video version on YouTube. See the description on the YouTube version for extensive annotations, links and corrections. You can also comment on this episode there. The main website for this project is

This transcript we derived from the automatically generated YouTube transcript, with only minor editing for clarity.

I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography or the study of human populations. I'm trying to view humanity from a distance like aliens would see us from space.

In this episode, I will review the year 2020 just as it is ending, and as years go this one was a biggie. The world experienced its first major pandemic of the electronic era. And it ain't over yet, so I'm not going to talk too much about the pandemic itself because you know more than I do especially if you're a listener from the future. In this episode, I'm going to talk more about my own personal year, which was momentous in itself, because I dodged another appointment with death, and I'm going to talk about the bigger macroeconomic picture that all of us are facing.

As of the end of 2020, the end seems to be in sight for the pandemic itself. Some vaccines have been developed and they're just beginning to distribute them, but the economic fallout is far from over. Rather than calling 2020 a very bad year, I would call it the first bad year of many. I suspect that 2020 will be the 1939 of bad years—bad in itself but even worse for what it foreshadows.

But i'll get into the worldwide story later. First, I want to give you a little review of my own personal year, which had some drama but ended pretty well. In the first half of the year, I had a relapse of my lymphoma cancer, which was previously treated in 2018. 

Starting in March 2020, I went through a series of chemotherapy cycles culminating in one of the most intensive treatments that oncology can offer, which is an autologous stem cell transplant. That's where I was isolated in a hospital room for 24 days and my whole immune system was essentially rebooted. It was wiped out with some industrial strength chemo, then they reconstructed my immune system from my own stem cells which had been harvested previously. So for three weeks I was a boy in the bubble, occupying a big room in Feldberg 7, which is the hematology oncology ward at Beth Israel hospital in Boston. Since I had no immune system, any little microbe could have done me in. I couldn't even step into the hall, but the staff could come into my room.

So how did I respond to this assault on my body? Well, I had a blast! I might be one of the few people you know who really, really enjoyed cancer treatment, especially the second time around. This time, I was very well prepared. I already knew the drill. I already knew all the folks at Feldberg 7, and I was thrilled to see all my friends again and—uh—give them a little entertainment when I could. It was just a wonderful experience. It was very meaningful to me, and once it's clear that I'm not going to die, I really enjoyed the whole cancer experience, both in 2020 and 2018. I don't want to minimize it. Cancer is a big thing it really concerns a lot of people. It kills a lot of people, but personally, my personal experience, because I take control of things, I really enjoyed the Feldberg 7 experience.

I was in the hospital for about 50 days from March to June and, sadly, I'm now out in the real world [now]. I'm back to my virtual life where I travel continuously for work, and I don't have a human contact anymore, and that's what I loved about Feldberg 7. I had actual friends there who I saw every day. Now in this time around 2020 everyone was wearing masks, so I didn't see their faces, but I knew everybody anyway, and it was nice to reconnect with them. I'm almost hoping for another bout with cancer so I can go back to my my home.

My cancer was hardly ever painful. At worst, it was very draining—meaning that I could hardly get out of bed—but intellectually, it was like a vacation, because I really had nothing to do all day but work on my computer, which is exactly what I love to be doing. So part of what made my cancer experience wonderful to me is that I totally took charge of it. I was the master of my domain, and I had plenty of time this time around to prepare for the autologous transplant. 

My greatest accomplishment—a very very important accomplishment—is that I built a swimming pool in my hospital room. I'm probably the only patient at Beth Israel who's ever done this, and it took me months to prepare. I knew I was going to go in for this month-long sequestering, this month-long isolation, and I prepared my swimming pool well in advance. 

What I did is I purchased a child's inflatable wading pool and smuggled it into the hospital. The security was intense, in that I'm not allowed to have any outside stuff in my room because I'm this boy in the bubble, so I had to do some conniving to manage to pull this all together, but I did. When the worst of my my situation had passed, when my blood levels, my platelet levels, were coming back and I was allowed out into the hall again, that's when I pulled my pool stunt.

I had this really big bathroom. It was a huge room, a room all to myself with a big bathroom, which was a room in itself. I blew up my pool, which is about, oh, a foot high and filled it with warm water and got into my pool. I was decently attired, and I just waited for my nurse to come in and discover me. This is a male nurse, when he when he discovered me, I was filming the whole thing, so if you want to see this, you can go to my Instagram account. The hashtag involved is “GPC”—Glenn Paul Campbell—GPC underscore cancer, and you'll see all my wonderful posts from my cancer experience both in 2018 and 2020. 

So I'm sitting in my pool my warm pool in my bathroom, and the nurse discovers me and says “Oh My God!” And I told him, you know, you better report this to the authorities, that the patient in this room has a has a swimming pool in his bathroom. You've got to report it [and] take it up the chain of command and find out what they want to do about this patient who has a swimming pool in his room. 

So eventually my real cancer doctor came in, Dr. Matt, and he was, “Oh my god!” It was time for his rounds anyway, where they come into your room and they listen to your heart and they check you out and they talk to you about your plan. And so he did his rounds while I was sitting in my pool. You know, he held the stethoscope against my chest, and we did all the usual stuff, and then he told me I couldn't have a swimming pool in my room—which is kind of what I expected. That's the outcome I expected, but my question is why. Why can't I have a pool in my room? Is there some sort of anti-pool policy at Beth Israel hospital? And the doctor simply said, “Infection risk,” which I think is bullshit. I don't think there was any infection risk. They just didn't want me to have fun in my pool.

So my pool lasted all of about two hours, but people came into my room and saw my pool, and I got the effect I wanted. I got the attention I wanted. I made the impression, and I then I took my pool down and that episode was over.

But that's the sort of thing I made out of the experience. Every day, I tried to… I couldn't leave the room, but I did have a window out into the hallway. So I had [these] two little tiny windows into the world. I had a big wall of windows looking out on the street, and I also had a smaller window looking out in the hallway, so at least in this this time when I couldn't leave my room, at least I could look out, and I could also post signs on the windows of my room, so before I ever went in for my transplant, I collected a bunch of signs, like “Beware of Dog” and things like that, and I posted them in creative ways in the window of my room, 

So I totally take control of the situation. That's my way. It was a bit of a shock in 2018 when I first learned I had cancer. I wasn't prepared. I wasn't prepared financially. [and] I didn't have a clue I was getting cancer. I thought I had something else, and [I was] disoriented for a couple of days, but I got oriented real quick, and I managed to, you know, channel myself into making the most of this and channeling myself into solving the various problems that I had—getting all my ducks in the row and totally exploiting this for all it's worth.

In 2018 I went through this very intensive program: 5 months of really knock-down chemotherapy. Many times I was released into the world when I could barely walk, but 2020 was way easier. 2020 was very intense but also very brief. I had a sort of “Lite” version of chemotherapy [in] March, April and May, and then I went in for the really heavy duty stuff in June, when they wiped out my immune system. But the disability, the part where I really couldn't function was only about a week. It was a week at my lowest point when they'd killed everything in my body and were giving me my stem cells back. It was about a week when I couldn't do much but sleep, but the whole rest of the time, I was very productive, typing away at my computer and doing stuff which is exactly what I would have wanted to do anyway.

So if you were to ask me how I spent the first few months of the coronavirus lockdown, it was there. I went into the hospital about March 23rd, which was just about the time when all the states in the U.S. were locking things down, so I did not experience very much of the outside world during that initial lockdown phase. I could look out in my out of my hospital window, and I could see that there was almost no traffic out there on the street, but other than that, it was very much like my previous stay in 2018. 

There were only a few little changes: All of the staff was wearing masks in 2020. I never saw their faces, and no visitors were allowed. Also, every patient got their own room. So during the light phase of my chemotherapy, I never had to share a room with another patient, which was an added bonus, and that's the only real difference. The same people. No one is particularly stressed in the cancer ward because they're not affected directly by Covid. It's not like everything's tense in a hospital during Covid. Only certain parts of the hospital are tense.

In all, I consider 2020 to be a pretty good year for me, but I know that's not the universal experience. It's a pretty horrible year for most people, and it's hard to get a handle on it because most of the misery is invisible. You only know about it from the statistics. 

Now, i've been there. I've known that growing sense of dread when you're trying to support a family and the money coming in, just isn't matching the money going out. You know you're on a ship that's sinking, and there's nothing you can do about it but worry. 

This happened to me back in 2003 to 2005. I was married to a woman with four children, and so I had an instant family. All of a sudden, I had children to care for who I had not raised and I had not trained and it was way more difficult than I ever imagined. When the marriage started collapsing in 2003, it was just the most dreadful experience one can imagine because not only was our marriage collapsing, but our finances were collapsing as well. I'm trying to keep this whole ship afloat, trying to protect people who seem to hate me. I couldn't live in the household anymore from 2003 until the divorce in 2005, and it was just a horrible ongoing stress. And maybe that experience is why I took cancer so well because cancer was a piece of cake compared to seeing my world collapse.

Another statistic that makes an impression on me is that back in 2018 and 2019, the Federal Reserve did a survey and found that 40% of Americans would have difficulty finding $400 for an emergency, and the pandemic has inflicted far more damage than that. And I know that vulnerable 40% are really suffering right now. You don't see any families living on the street yet, but maybe you will. People started losing their jobs back in March, and many have been running on fumes since then. They're protected from eviction or foreclosure by various moratoriums, but eventually those moratoriums have to run out, and that's when things really start breaking. That's going to happen in 2021: People who can't pay their rent or mortgage are going to be out in the street. So that's a delayed effect of the pandemic. There was this initial shock, and then there's the follow-on shocks that are going to happen one after another throughout the coming year. 

The U.S. economy is a sick puppy right now, and the pandemic is only part of it. There are huge dysfunctions in markets and monetary systems that predate the pandemic. In fact, I put out a podcast in December of last year called “The 2020s: The Horrible Decade”, which is Episode #22. Back then, before I knew anything about the pandemic, I predicted a vast economic collapse based on the macroeconomic dysfunction of massive worldwide debt and an aging population. I predicted that a “Black Swan” would come along to bring down the whole house of cards, and lo and behold, about a month later, that Black Swan materialized in China as this pandemic.

I put out another podcast very early on, around February 3rd, wondering if this was the Black Swan that would bring everything down—and it was, and yet it wasn't. The pandemic certainly crashed the economy, crashed the world-wide economy, but strangely it did NOT crash the U.S. stock market, which is flying higher than ever, which is one of the insanities of our moment in history. It's like what we need now is another Black Swan, another unexpected event, to make everybody take the first Black Swan seriously.

During one of the worst pandemics of history, stock markets have gone up, and that's not sustainable. That has to crash sometime, and that crash could easily happen in 2021. Or not. I've learned in macroeconomics, you don't make specific predictions. You can only make long-term predictions. You can always say this thing, this anti-gravity can't go on forever. It has to stop sooner or later. It's just unwise to predict exactly when, how and where it will stop and where when this process will begin. 

I put out my first podcast about the pandemic on February 3rd, which was only about two or three weeks after the pandemic was first reported in China, so on February 3rd, this was still a Chinese problem. There were no confirmed cases in the U.S. There were no deaths in the U.S., but I and many others said, “Okay, this is it. This is the Big One.” Even if it never gets out of China, this is the Big One that's going to trigger these events that that I and my Twitter friends all predicted. 

So that was the 3rd of February. The first death in the U.S. didn't happen until the 29th of February, and in the beginning of March, the United States markets really started noticing, and the stock markets did the rational thing: They crashed in March. They went down as one would expect when there's a going to be a huge hit to the economy. That was totally expected, and frankly, I didn't notice it much personally because the time of the stock market crash, about March 20th or 23rd, was also the time that I learned that my cancer was back. So I was preoccupied with that, and I saw in the news that the market was crashing, and I said, “Yeah, that's what I predicted. It's going to happen.” So over these next few months, I was inward looking. I wasn't looking out very much.

So maybe you want to know how I learned that I had cancer again. That's an interesting story. It was just about when this crash was beginning. March 19th and 20th was when I realized that I was feeling a little weak, and I could see on my fitbit that my heart rate had risen. Just doing the normal things like walking from the vehicle to into a store was very exhausting for me. I saw my heart rate go way up, and I had various theories about this. 

Of course, my first theory was that I had Covid, and so for about 24 hours I thought, “Okay, well this must be the Covid.” I'm feeling very weak, but I didn't have any of the other symptoms. I had no obstruction of my lungs, no congestion in my lungs, not even a drippy nose, so I discarded that theory. And my second theory was I was feeling winded because I was at a high elevation. I was in Albuquerque and vicinity at an elevation of five to six thousand feet. Maybe that was causing me to be winded, and that lasted for 24 hours. 

Eventually I realized what this is is some kind of anemia suggesting that my cancer is back. I had evidence, I had hard evidence. The evidence was my Fitbit. I had this certain baseline level, baseline heart rate, and I could see historically, my heart had gone way up since the 19th of March. And I knew, okay, one way or another my cancer is back. 

I got to get back to my hospital in Boston because that's the only place I could realistically be treated. It would be senseless to check into an emergency room in Arizona or wherever I was. I would have to get back to Boston, so it took me three days from the 20th to the 23rd to deliver my vehicle pick up another vehicle drive it to Boston and skid into the emergency room. As those three days are going by, my condition is getting worse and worse. Not only am I winded walking across the parking lot, but I'm actually physically fainting, physically collapsing, just walking from the car to a rest area restroom. 

On one occasion I fainted twice just walking 100 yards. It's not too dangerous. I could feel myself going down. It's not like a seizure where you have no warning. I knew I was fainting, and I could protect myself, and once I get back into the car and not exerting myself, I can still drive just fine. I'm still alert, but obviously bad things are happening. 

So I on the 23rd of March, I get into the emergency room in my hospital in Boston. I'm expecting a big crush of patients at the emergency room because of Covid, [but there were] no patients. There's no lines, no waiting at the emergency room. I went through a little screening process where they asked me some questions. I didn't have any of the symptoms of Covid, so they let me straight into the regular emergency room. 

Within about a half an hour, they had diagnosed my problem, and my problem was a build-up of fluid in the sac around my heart. So the heart sits in a little bag, a little sac, lubricated with a little bit of liquid, and there was a huge amount of liquid in this sac. They could see it in the echocardiogram. They knew what to do. 24 hours later, they stuck a catheter in my heart. I was awake for it, because I enjoy these things, and they drained out all the fluid, drained out about a liter of what looked to me like blood, a big pouch of blood, but they analyzed it and found out what that blood consisted of mainly was cancer cells, so the cancer had returned inside this sac around the heart, so I knew what I was in for. They transferred me over to Feldberg 7.

Once they drew the liquid out of my heart I was fine. I felt perfect. I was in perfect outward health because by relieving that pressure on my heart, my heart could beat freely again, and I was right back to normal, but of course we had to solve this problem of the cancer cells around my heart. 

And so for 14 days I was in the hospital with what I call “malingering”, because I had no serious symptoms whatsoever. I was a chipper. I was in top form. I could literally walk ten thousand steps every day while they decided what to do with me. So after those ten days, we decided on this this treatment plan, and I went on with it.

So only then did I begin to take a look at the markets again, and, yes, the markets did the rational thing. Between about March 20th and the beginning of April, markets crashed just as they're supposed to do, and then in the second half of [April] markets started rising again, and rising, and rising, until not only did they regain what they had lost, but stock markets in the U.S. reached all-time highs. And if that's not insanity, I don't know what is. 

As I'm speaking to you at the end of 2020, these all-time highs persist, and this makes no sense in terms of any fundamentals. It only makes sense in terms in terms of the artificial environment that the Federal Reserve has created, which is the subject of other podcasts, but that insanity is still with us in 2021. Even if the pandemic is solved, we have to do something, something has to happen to the astronomical asset prices, and that's just one aspect of the insanity. 

There are a bunch of things that just don't make sense right now. For example, to pay for Covid relief, the governments went even more deeply into debt than they were in 2019; yet, they're still able to sell bonds at a trivial interest rate. You can still loan money to the government and get virtually no interest for it, in spite of the fact that the government can't possibly make good on this debt. It can't pay it off. It can only keep borrowing, because it's so deeply into deficit. The only way it can fund itself is money printing. The Federal Reserve prints the money that the government is spending, and that can't go on forever. 

What's weird about this now is that there is no inflation. Normally when a government just prints money without restriction, there is inflation or hyperinflation. That's what happened in Zimbabwe or Weimar Germany, and that's just not happening in the U.S. right now, at least on the consumer level. You can get a dollar McChicken at Mcdonalds for a dollar still. Prices haven't really gone up very much, and that's one of the inexplicable things.

The another strange thing I'm encountering—because I see a lot of the country—is that there are Help Wanted signs everywhere. At every fast food restaurant everywhere in the country, there are Help Wanted signs. They are desperate. They're offering relatively high wages sometimes, and that's also crazy because we're in the middle of a an unemployment crisis where people have lost their jobs right and left, yet there's no one to man the Mcdonalds and other service jobs, so that's another bit of craziness.

One explanation for this is that people who have been laid off, they're still collecting unemployment and the unemployment payments would end if they went and got a job, so they don't want these jobs at Mcdonalds. Now, if unemployment ever runs out, then there's going to be rush for these jobs, and then we'll have fewer of these Help Wanted signs and more people unable to find work. Right now, anyone who wants work in the U.S. can have it. It's just very low-paying work, and if you're used to a high salary in some other industry, it might not even seem worth going to work, if you're only going to make ten dollars an hour. 

So all these insanities are not going to go away even if we cure the pandemic. It's entirely possible that even if everyone got the vaccine tomorrow, there's still going to be these delayed effects in 2021, and eventually there's going to be some kind of crash or collapse that that deals with all these economic insanities.

There's only one fundamental law in macroeconomics, at least in my view, and that's that you can't spend more money than you make. You can do it temporarily through credit, but you can't do it in the long term. The outflow has to match the inflow, and if it doesn't bad things are going to happen. You don't know when. You don't know how, but it's like a ship taking in more water than it's pumping out: Eventually, in a macroeconomic level, things have to crash if they're not sustainable.

One of the things that the pandemic has irrevocably done is wiped out tons of small businesses, leaving only the big guys standing. Big companies like Amazon and Walmart have profited immensely from the pandemic and can now be regarded as monopolies. The people who are let off from those small businesses are now reduced to serfdom. There are still jobs available, but these are what I call fulfillment drone jobs. The computer spits out an order, and you as the drone run around and fulfill it, and that's what millions of people have been reduced to. They are low level automatons, just doing things that the machine itself can't do, and these people aren't happy about it. I see their unhappiness in all the people who voted for Donald Trump, and I also see it in the Black Lives Matter protests. I don't think this is about racism or about Trump. I think this is about people being very unhappy and protesting in whatever way they have.

Now, the dronifying of work certainly didn't start with the pandemic, but the pandemic has accelerated this process by wiping out all those small businesses that offered less drone-like work. After this pandemic is over, it is entirely possible the U.S. will return to the kind of nominal full employment that it had in 2019, but these are unhappy jobs with unhappy workers, and when they go to the ballot box they could do rash and counterproductive things.

One of the few bright spots of 2020 is that America somehow managed to throw off the wretched yoke of Donald Trump, but it was by only the thinnest of margins, and all that unhappiness that got him elected in 2016 is still there and isn't going away anytime soon. Although I don't really want to place any money on it, I'm fairly sure that Trump himself is really gone, and even if he won't shut up, at least he'll fade into ineffectualness, but there will be other Trumps coming along to replace him, and when they emerge, they'll have a willing audience of all these unhappy fulfillment workers.

So 2020 was a pretty bad year worldwide, but I can't predict that 2021 will be any better. Or maybe 2021 will be great but then 2022 will go back to sucking. I just don't know. I just don't see much happiness on the horizon. We're in for a set of devastating collapses. I can't tell you when, where or how, but they're gonna happen.


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Essential Features of the Post-Nuclear Family ⸺ A Tweet Essay ๐Ÿงต by Glenn Campbell

Here are the essential features of my post-nuclear family, as define in a tweet essay. This long series of tweets starting on 26 December 2020, is merged into a single document here for ease of reading. The beginning of most tweets is marked by ➤. Text in [brackets] was added after the original tweets.

➤ ๐Ÿš€☢️๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐Ÿ‘ง‍๐Ÿ‘ฆ #PostNuclearFamily — a family system proposed by Glenn Campbell where a permanent household of 9-18 kids is raised by multiple adults. Like other families, the PNF is a lifelong support structure linking adults into a community and providing care during sickness & old age.

➤ The aim is to raise a large number of children at relatively low cost, with  burdens and risks of parenthood distributed over multiple adults. It also aims to raise children successfully and consistently, using experience built over time. #dd_pnf

➤ Essential features—

① Kids are distributed in age every 1-2 years.

② No adults live in the home. Instead they come in for scheduled shifts.

③ Older children provide most routine care for younger children.

④ Childrearing never ends. As teens age out, new babies come in.

⑤ Kids are homeschooled under the management of a paid teacher.

⑥ Family is supported by a system of "taxes", similar to a church tithe. All working family members and alumni are expected to contribute.

⑦ Family provides a lifelong support system.

⑧ Apart from cooperating on the family, adults do not share their assets, and they are free to live any way they choose… like adult siblings today.

⑨ Primary "parental" bonds are between younger and older siblings. Adults are more like aunts/uncles.

⑩ When a member of the family retires from conventional work, they are expect to return to the home to care for children and sick siblings.

⑪ The family cares for anyone disabled by sickness or old age, adjacent to the home of the children.

⑫ Kids help provide routine care for the sick and elderly (in cooperation with adults).

⑬ In general, kids are expected to take on as much responsibility as they can reasonably handle at their age. e.g. They don't provide the food, but they cook it.

⑭ When a child raised by the family eventually dies, their assets are willed to the family.

➤ These are NOT essential features and are determined by the family itself—

  • Where the babies come from.
  • What curriculum is taught.
  • How the adults organize themselves.
  • How the family is formed.
  • How tasks and financial responsibilities are allocated.
  • How disputes are resolved.

➤ Although most of the routine work of the family is performed by children, adults provide the overall facilities and structure. They determine the family's policies by negotiation among themselves, and these policies are constantly evolving.

➤ Although "where the babies come from" is a policy matter decided among the adults, there are 3 essential features:

  1. Arrival of babies is deliberately spaced every 1-2 years.
  2. Genetic diversity is desirable.
  3. Where possible, babies are born in the home. 

➤ The normal, sustainable family size is 9 kids, age 0-18, spaced two years apart.

The family is expanded to 18 kids, one year apart, only to facilitate later "mitosis" dividing one family into two. Kids are "unzipped" into two families of 9 with a common culture.

➤ Exceptions and notes on the above…

Re ② "No adults live in the home"—except the sick and infirm. An adult returning to the home in retirement will still live outside of it as long as they are capable. They move into the home (or an adjacent one) only when they need assistance.

➤ This family structure was first introduced as the "modular family" in a 26 Mar 2019 video.

23 Oct 2020, it was renamed to the "post-nuclear family" and reintroduced in a series of podcasts starting with Demographic Doom Podcast #46 

➤ Attempts to describe PNF in a book have been abandoned (for now). Glenn's plan is contained only in podcasts and their scripts.

Playlists of PNF podcasts/videos—

๐ŸฆTwitter: #dd_pnf - #PostNuclearFamily 

➤ ๐ŸŽ‚ One easy way for the PNF to start is 3 or more couples decide to pool their resources and raise their children in one house, according to the template above. Children are conceived in the traditional way, but timed for 2-year spacing. Family is "mature" by Year 18, which is also around the time when the fertility of the original mothers dries up and the family has to search for more innovative sources of babies—as discussed in Podcast #50 ๐Ÿ”Š

➤ ๐Ÿ’Ž The family's most valuable asset is its culture—or "how we do things". It is refined over time and is passed as much from child to child as adult to child. Culture is the "institutional memory" of the family and includes habits that can't easily be put into words... 

➤ ๐Ÿ’Ž Preserving family culture is the reason childrearing never ends. The culture is passed continuously from child to child and gets more sophisticated with time. Preserving culture is also the reason new families are created by mitosis rather than from scratch.

➤ Branding ๐Ÿš€☢️๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐Ÿ‘ง‍๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐Ÿ‘ง‍๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐Ÿ‘ง‍๐Ÿ‘ฆ

➤ ๐Ÿ’Ž Once born into the family, you're a member for life—like families today. Once childhood and "community service" are done, around age 22, young adults are free to do anything they want with their lives—so long as they pay their tithe. Some will stay close; others may ๐Ÿ›ซ๐ŸŒŽ.

➤ ๐Ÿ’Ž Since this is a genetically diverse family, there will be many different personalities and skill sets, even though the children are raised in the same environment. Some will be be adept at raising kids; others may be drawn to leadership or more mechanical tasks.

➤ ๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐ŸŽ“๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐ŸŽ“ Graduates of the family spent their whole childhood cooperating with each other (to prepare meals, do laundry, etc), so we can expect them to cooperate well in adulthood. Every alumn is expected to serve the family their entire life, but the form of service is negotiable.

➤ ๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐ŸŽ“๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐ŸŽ“ Some alumns may simple send cash ๐Ÿ’ธ from far away (known as "remittances"). Others may remain close to home and serve their family more directly. Direct service as an on-duty adult may be rewarded with a reduction in tithe.

➤ ⛪๐Ÿ•Œ๐Ÿ• A current analogy for the mature PNF is a church supported by its parishioners. Every member pays their tithe, and tasks are divided among them according to skills and inclination. Although there's a nominal leader/pastor, many functions are decentralized & self-motivated.

➤ ⛪๐Ÿ•Œ๐Ÿ• As in any house of worship, the people who are most powerful are those who choose to be actively involved. Some alumns may take an active interest in the raising of the next generation; others less so. To resolve disputes, there is a clearly defined power structure.

➤ ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Adults determine "policy", or the firm rules the family operates under. "Culture" is more organic and less under anyone's control. Policy determines the rules kids must follow. Culture determines how those rules are carried out and what people do within those boundaries.

➤ ๐Ÿ’ธ What makes adults pay their family taxes? Mainly it's loyalty to the people you grew up with, but there are also benefits. Family is a safety net and insurance plan in case you get sick or in trouble. If you don't pay, you may alienate your siblings or lose family services.

➤ ๐Ÿงฎ If the family adds one child every 2 years, and no new members are recruited, total family size eventually tops out at about 40-45 people, spanning ages 0-100. Not much different than a large traditional family of the past.

➤ ๐Ÿ’‘ Family size and composition are largely independent of romantic relationships. Alumns can make or break romantic relations with anyone they choose, so long as no children result. Partners of alumns are welcomed [to visit] but are not automatic family members entitled to support services.

➤ ๐Ÿ’‘ If diversity is sought in ๐Ÿ‘ถs, siblings may not be genetically related. However, per the #WestermarckEffect, teens and alums are unlikely to be romantically interested in the people they grew up with. Like most of us, they will look outside their family for love.

➤ ๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿซ Homeschooling is managed by a paid teacher recruited from within or outside the family, according to a curriculum actively negotiated by the adults. Education is seen as too important to be relegated to a government-run school.

➤ ๐Ÿ’‘➪๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿ‘Ž Having a baby outside the sanction of your family is strongly discouraged, since the elders of the family reserve rights on the timing of babies and where they come from. If you have a baby without sanction, the baby may not be accepted into the main household.

๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿซ The "teacher" is more of an "educational manager", assigning resources and measuring milestones but doing little direct teaching. The teacher can rely on a variety of resources, including online learning, but the most important is older children teaching younger ones.

➤ ๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿซ Older kids teaching younger ones has the dual benefit of reducing labor requirements for adults while cementing skills of the older child. e.g...

๐Ÿง’ Child learns alphabet.

๐Ÿง’➪๐Ÿง’๐Ÿฝ Child teaches it to younger child.

๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿซ✔️๐Ÿง’๐Ÿง’๐Ÿฝ Teacher checks performance of both.

➤ ๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿซ Kids are expected to master a core curriculum, negotiated among the adults and with the teacher. What are the age-specific benchmarks? What books are required reading? If a kid zooms ahead in the core ๐Ÿ’จ they can focus more on topics that interest them.

➤ ๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿซ The teacher has these educational resources at their disposal:

  • older kids teaching younger ones
  • online learning
  • textbook learning/assigned reading
  • tutoring by adults, either remedial or advanced
  • facilitated autodidacticism
  • direct teaching by teacher

 ➤ #FacilitatedAutodidacticism is when teacher and student decide what the goals of learning should be, then the student chooses their own route to get there. The teacher plays an important role in keeping the student on track toward that goal—so they don’t get stuck in repetition.

➤ ๐Ÿ› The family may fund higher education for a kid but only if there is a credible pay-off (since the family is entitled to a “tithe” of the students future income). A kid who wants to be a doctor is more likely to be funded than a theater major.

➤ ๐Ÿ“บ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ“ฑ๐Ÿ’ป๐ŸŽง The family must carefully control electronic media, so it doesn’t interfere with educational and formation goals. The adults negotiate a policy on it, which is adjusted as new conditions arise. The policy should be nuanced but understandable to everyone.

➤ ๐Ÿช–⛑๐Ÿคฐ Upon reaching adulthood, circa age 18, young people begin a period of “community service“— duties to be determined. Analogous to National Service in ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ or ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ. For women, this could be bearing children. For men? Who knows๐Ÿคท‍♀️. Completed circa age 22.

➤ ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿคท‍♀️ Regardless of the family’s resources, children should be raised in an environment of mild poverty, where resources are relatively scarce and you have to negotiate with others to get what you want.

➤ ๐Ÿ“ฆ๐Ÿ” Although most resources in the core household are shared, kids are allowed to own personal property. It is stored in a steamer trunk at the foot of their ๐Ÿ›Œ. Anything inside the box that was fairly obtained is “yours“. Anything outside the box is community property.

➤ ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿง’๐Ÿ‘ฉ With the exception of twins ๐Ÿ‘ฏ‍♀️ no children in the family are the same age. This is intended to reduce direct competition and create a natural hierarchy. Older kids get more privileges, but this is seen as “fair“ to younger ones because they will be there soon.

➤ Here is a huge visual image of this tweet essay so far.

Short link for the original tweet thread:
Short link for this blog post:

{This post backed up to email: 1/15/21}
{This post backed up as an image in a tweet: 1/15/21}

Thursday, December 10, 2020

50. Post-Nuclear Family: Where Do The Babies Come From? (Demographic Doom Podcast)

This is the transcript for my Demographic Doom podcast episode #50 recorded on 10 December 2020 (released on 13 December 2020). It may differ slightly from the final broadcast. This episode is available on major podcast platforms, including PodbeanApple Podcasts and a video version on YouTube. See the description on the YouTube version for extensive annotations, links and corrections. You can also comment on this episode there. The main website for this project is

This is a transcript (not a script as in previous podcasts). It is based on the transcript automatically generated by YouTube with minimal editing.

I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography or the study of human populations. I'm trying to view humanity from a distance like aliens would see us from space.

In this episode, I'd like to return again to my proposed post-nuclear family and answer the question: Where do the babies come from? Recapping what the post-nuclear family is: this is my hypothetical system of shared parenting intended to make child rearing cheaper and less risky for the participants, thereby encouraging both more children and more consistently raised children.

It can be started quite simply by three or more couples producing babies in the traditional way but choosing to raise them together in a single household, thereby cutting down on expenses. There are a lot of other ways a post-nuclear family could get started but this seems the least radical, in that it ought to be fairly easy to implement without violating too many norms. You've got parents creating kids just as they normally do. They're just choosing to raise them in a different way. Instead of two adults raising between one and three kids, I propose six or more adults raising at least nine and maybe as many as 18 kids in a single dwelling. 

The children are evenly distributed in age from 0 to 18 with no children the same age. This staggering of ages allows learning to flow from child to child and not just from adult to child. In other words, once a child learns something, they can pass it on to a younger child, which can only happen if you have this distribution of ages. It wouldn't work if you had all your children the same age because they're all learning at the same rate, but if you have this distributed system, there's more opportunity for the children to participate in their own upbringing.

For example, older children can provide routine care for younger children, at least to relieve some of the burden on the parents. In fact, I propose that the older children provide nearly all the care for the younger children—but that's a topic for another podcast. To prevent all these parents from getting in each other's way, I propose that none of them actually lives in the household. Instead, they conduct their own private lives much as they do today, in their own dwellings, coming into the household only for scheduled shifts. 

Instead of parenthood being a seven day a week job, it could conceivably be a one day a week job. I'm not proposing that this be a strict schedule. Parents can come and go with some flexibility, but they should also have a schedule that they can rely on. They should be able to know that five days a week, [they] can focus entirely on work knowing that the household is being taken care of. There's always an adult on duty or nearly always, and there's probably a full-time teacher employed to manage education, but I foresee children performing most of the routine tasks of the household like preparing meals and cleaning house. I propose that adults never prepare a meal, vacuum a rug or change a diaper, except to show how it's done. 

Instead of being caregivers in the traditional sense, adults are more like supervisors making sure that things get done but not actually doing the work. Adults still provide protection, financial support and an educational plan, but they are not the cooks and bottle washers. Instead of being parents in our current sense, you might see them more like grandparents or the aunts and uncles of today. 

I realize this system raises all sorts of questions and challenges, which is why I need to discuss it over multiple podcasts, but for now I just want to focus on this one issue: baby making. This in itself is such a complex issue that I can easily talk for 20 or 30 minutes or hours—and I probably will—but let me hit the high points in this episode. 

In previous episodes, I had a simple explanation for where the babies came from: that the stork brings them, and I now have to confess that it was a lie. Storks are big birds but they aren't strong enough flyers to carry a human infant, and this story doesn't explain where the storks get the babies that they drop down the chimney. Clearly I'm going to have to come up with a better explanation here. 

In the first two decades of the family, the source of the babies is no great mystery. If we have three heterosexual couples joining forces to raise children, the babies could be conceived in the usual way, which is sex between romantically committed partners. The only unusual thing for those first two decades is that they coordinate their births, so a child is born every two years among them. Assuming there are no existing children at the time the consortium is formed, it would take about 18 years to assemble a full family of nine kids. 

At that point my vision for a large family is realized and hopefully by then we will have proven that this family system works. At that point, however, the fertility of the original mothers starts running dry. They can't safely produce babies anymore when they get into their 40s, and the least risk lies with younger women. As the mother ages, the risk of birth defects increases, so you want people to have babies in their younger years, in their 20s and 30s. 

Now let's take the long view of this. I'm recording this episode in 2020. Optimistically, it might take till 2030 before anyone pays any attention to me and before anyone latches on to this idea and actually considers implementing it. 18 years later, around the year 2048, the fertility of the mothers is going to run out, and these families are going to have to start looking for other sources of babies—that is, if they want to continue the family as I'm proposing. 

I'm proposing that this post-nuclear family is a permanent institution. It goes on forever, because you want to preserve all that knowledge that is accumulated over time. Call it an institutional memory. After you've been raising children for 18 years, you've learned a thing or two. The whole institution has matured, and you don't want to just stop having babies, stop raising children because then you're wasting all this resource, this talent, these skills that you've developed, so you need more babies now to populate your system, and where are you going to get them? 

By 2048, it could be a very different world, and there could be different technology. Perhaps there's ways of making babies that we can't even imagine now. Society could be wildly different, so it's not a good idea for me to declare unilaterally right now where the babies should come from or what's going to be best for this family 30 years from now. I can only talk about what the options are as I see them in 2020. 

The one thing I can tell you will probably not exist in 2048 is artificial wombs that's where you gestate a baby in some kind of machine so you don't need a woman anymore. That's the stuff of science fiction, like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Babies are decanted through an industrial process called ectogenesis.

This technology would have to be so complex that I don't think it will happen even by 2048. Yes, we can raise preemie babies in incubators, but there's a certain threshold of viability where you can't do it anymore. You have to have a human host at least up to a certain point. The trouble with ectogenesis is getting all the nutrients and biological systems right. You have to ask what is flowing through this umbilical cord, and do we have the right mix going in, and I think that's really complicated chemistry. It's not just chemistry; it's living biology, and my prediction is by 2048, artificial wombs really won't be a thing, and frankly I think they will never be a thing, because at the very least, it's going to be a very expensive process compared to just having a woman carry the baby to term. 

Sadly, we males can't do it. I know it's grossly unfair, but that's the deck biology has dealt us. Males get off scot-free in the child-bearing business, and you may wonder what males are good for, and that's a very good question. Does society need them at all, and I'm sure that's a question I'll tackle in a future episode. Spoiler alert: I think you still need men, uh, for stuff. I'm not exactly sure what but I'm pretty sure we're still going to need a 50/50 mix of men and women. 

So after the fertility of the founding mothers has expired, the family is going to be searching for new fertile female bodies to bear its children, and there are several ways to recruit them. But before I get into them, I'd like to talk about another obvious alternative, which is adoption 

I predict that even in 2048, with the number of deliberate children dwindling, there will still be plenty of unwanted children in the world. This is because in virtually every society it's the most ill-equipped parents who tend to have the most babies. It's the drug addicts. It's the people who aren't thinking ahead. Unwanted babies are born every day to mothers who really aren't up to the task. Maybe they can't figure out birth control, or they're raped, or they have a baby on a whim without a clue about what a huge undertaking it is.

The child welfare system is filled with these babies, and I think it always will be. These children often end up in the foster care system, which I've studied extensively in Las Vegas. They are like pets waiting for a forever home, and frankly pets have a better chance. 

Wouldn't it make sense when your post-nuclear family needs babies to simply adopt the unwanted babies in the world? If there aren't enough available babies in the industrial countries, maybe they could go to the high fertility countries, like those in Africa, for another source of babies. 

The idea of adoption instead of birth is certainly compassionate, but it fills me with trepidation, especially given my exposure to the foster care system and child welfare. Compassion is not the aim of the post-nuclear family. The family of the future is focused on its selfish goal of perpetuating its own values, its own way of life. Children aren't objects of charity. Children are the carriers of your culture, and the earlier you can get them trained in your culture, the better. 

If you bring in a 12-year-old who has no experience with your family system, they could end up being very disruptive. They haven't been raised in your system so they haven't acquired all the fundamental habits to make it work. An adopted child could be a bull in a china shop, disrupting your carefully crafted family system. 

The younger the child is the more easily they can be assimilated into your new family, so ideally you want to start at birth, but even the pre-birth months are important. If you adopt a newborn infant from the child welfare system, you still want to know that they were treated well in the womb. If a baby was born to a drug addict who had poor nutrition during her pregnancy, you would want to approach that baby with great caution. For example, there are many kinds of fundamental brain damage that can occur before birth, and it's the sort of thing that might not be evident until the child is two or three years old. 

The post-nuclear family, or any family, is going to make a huge investment in its children, so it needs to know that the baby it starts with is healthy to begin with, and the best way to assure this is to monitor the conditions of the mother during pregnancy. You want to know at least that she isn't doing drugs and is getting good nutrition. You don't get this if you adopt a baby from the government foster care system. You only get it if you can directly monitor the pregnancy yourself. 

The post-nuclear family is not a charity. Its main mission isn't rescuing the weak or doing good for wider society. Its main mission is perpetuating its culture. Children are the carriers of that culture and you want to recruit the best candidates for the job. This includes the selection of an embryo—which is a hornet's nest we'll get into later—and assuring a healthy pregnancy. 

If the elders of the community can't verify the condition of the pregnancy, they are right to be skeptical. They would want to know where this baby came from. That said, I don't want to close the door entirely to adoption—that is, to a child who is already on the planet and needs a home. There could be a place for that, but I don't think it should be the primary method for obtaining babies. Every child is an experiment. It's a roll of the dice even if they are gestated in perfect circumstances, but adopted children are even more experimental and more risky. A lot of things can go wrong with even a normal pregnancy and adoption just adds an additional level of risk. 

So for the foreseeable future, the postnuclear family is going to need female bearers for its children, and I see three main ways of recruiting them. 

One is just to recruit more couples into your system. So we have this system that was started by three heterosexual couples, and when their fertility runs out, we just go out into the marketplace and we recruit three more couples. Or we don't really even need couples; we need women willing to bear, and if women are willing to bear, then we can arrange an embryo for them. We need to go out into the world and find people who match our goals and recruit them and bring them into the family. So that's one option. 

The second option is that you can hire someone. You could hire a woman. You could pay her money and give her an embryo and have her bring it to term and pay her a salary for it. That I would call a “mother for hire”. It's just a a cash transaction, and you're not actually admitting her into your family. So that's option number two. 

Option number three is using your own internal talent to produce these babies, and that would be the girls who you have raised yourself in this family and who have reached maturity, have reached the age of 18. That could be another source of your new babies. 

So you have these three methods, and I'm not saying which one is right because it depends upon the circumstances in 2048 that I can't envision, but let me go through those three options and talk about their strengths and weaknesses. 

And we haven't even talked about where the sperm and egg come from, and I'm not going to tackle that here. That's a really messy situation. The traditional way is a committed man and woman unite their gametes and make a baby, but we have a lot of other options. There's artificial insemination, and there is full surrogacy, where you take an embryo and implant it in a host. I'm not going to get into that in this episode because it is incredibly complicated. It has all sorts of ethical issues. Right now I just want to talk about where does the woman come from, the carrier come from, the host come from who's going to bear this child for nine months. 

So that first method I call “birth by recruitment”. That's when you put out a call for new women or new couples to join your collective. The women are going to bear several children until their fertility runs out, and then you've got to go out into the world and recruit still more young women or couples. These people that you recruit they remain full family members for life. You're bringing them into your group and even after their fertility runs out, they're still part of your family and they are entitled to the family's retirement plan. They're entitled to care in their older years, which is part of the mandate of the family. The family doesn't just raise children. It also takes care of its sick and its elderly, and if you're recruited into the group, you have all those all those privileges when you get older. 

I see two main complications in this. One is the likelihood that that most adults raised in some other family system are simply not going to understand your system. It's like adopting a teenager. Every new adult you try to absorb into your group runs the risk of being disruptive. The family needs to have very high standards of admission so it doesn't take in someone who isn't going to work out. And this might mean that there are no suitable candidates at all for recruitment. 

The second issue is more concrete and demographic. If you keep recruiting new adult members, eventually you have an unwieldy family size. The pool of adults just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and maybe in the end you have an elder-care crisis just like we have today. 

The whole family system is funded by a system of family taxes, a sort of tithe that you pay to the family throughout your life, so it's a little bit like a government system. If at some point the family ends up with too many elderly people and not enough productive workers paying their taxes, it might put a strain on family resources. 

You also have what I call the too many cooks phenomenon. It's hard enough to coordinate the activities of the six original parents in the collective. Now you're adding more parents, more adults, and the decision-making process gets more and more complicated. 

So I talked about the children being distributed in age. I also think the adults should be distributed in age, so each has their unique slot, their unique perspective. There aren't too many adults because too many adults are going to turn this thing into a great big bureaucracy where we're arguing out the smallest point. Recruiting too many outsiders could really muck up your whole system. 

The thing you have to factor in is that the post-nuclear family doesn't just raise children; it also cares for its sick and elderly. If you get a serious illness at any age and can't work, the family is going to take care of you, and likewise when you get old and infirm. Whenever you recruit new adults from outside the family, you have to ask how much is this going to cost us when they become old and feeble. I'm not equipped now to do this analysis, but family elders will have to do it when they are deciding whether to admit a new full-fledged member. 

You don't have these costs with option number two, which is where you simply pay a woman from outside your family to bear a child for you. Instead of recruiting a full-fledged family member, you hire a mercenary, someone who's willing to trade cash for pregnancy. You provide her with the embryo, and you could probably monitor her health during pregnancy, and then you take the baby and give her money and she goes her way. Technically that would probably work, but if you're like me you have great concern about this, great ethical concern. It raises all sorts of legal and ethical issues. 

First of all, in both the U.S and Canada and probably a lot of other countries, it is currently illegal to pay a surrogate to bear children. You can pay her expenses, which can be very generous, but you can't directly pay her for the service of her pregnancy. This is seen as the equivalent of selling one's baby to the highest bidder. I can't say whether this prohibition is right or wrong, and I don't know what the law will look like in 2048. Any family has to work within the regulatory requirements of whatever country they live in, and that's a wild card right now, but personally the whole idea of hiring someone to produce a baby makes me feel a little queasy. 

If you offer enough money, I'm sure you're going to have takers. Pregnancy may be inconvenient, but it's not the worst work in the world. It does, however, take a toll on one's body and one's emotions. Not being capable of pregnancy myself, I may not fully appreciate the emotions involved in bearing a child, but I imagine they're significant. I don't know how easy it would be to carry a pregnancy for nine months, have the baby and then walk away, and I don't know what it says about your family if you're willing to use this method, if you're willing to use someone else's body and then discard them, and then put the push them away. This mother-for-hire system seems messy to me. I mean, all child bearing is messy, but I suspect that child bearing works best and is most sustainable within the context of a long-term relationship. If a woman bears a child, she should be able to be a part of that child's life for the rest of her life. 

So that leaves a third option, which is using the family's own children to bear the next generation. This is probably the most radical sounding of my proposals in the whole post-nuclear system, so I need to explain it at length, both here and possibly in other podcasts. So here's what I'm proposing: children are raised to the age of legal adulthood within this large household. Once a child reaches, say, the age of 18, they enter the next phase of life which is a period of community service. 

There's a lot of precedence for this. Before the 1970s, the United States had a military draft where all young men were expected to serve their country in the military for a certain number of years. All young men were required to perform this service. This form of conscription is still a way of life in Israel and Switzerland and a few other countries, and in Israel it includes women. Women still have this same military service requirement, and the only way they're exempt from it is if they're actively bearing children, and that's the germ of my idea. I think that for girls in this family they should go through a period of community service, let's say from the age of 18 to the age of 22 where they become pregnant and have children. 

Now this sounds pretty radical to us, but it may not be to a woman herself who has been raised in this system. If we have 18 kids being raised in one household, each of them has had a lot of experience with babies over the course of their childhood. There's always been babies in their household, and by the time you reach 18 you will have probably witnessed a half-dozen births. I mean, physically seen them because I think the births should happen right there in the home. So pregnancy does not seem so radical for these girls. It might seem natural when you get to age 18 after having seen your sisters bear children and having enjoyed babies all of your life, it may seem natural when you turn 18 to bear a child yourself. That's your family service. That's your community service. Instead of going into the military and fighting in a foreign war, you are required or at least “expected” to have a few babies—two or three babies—that's your expectation. I wouldn't call it obligatory. I wouldn't call it a coercion. Once you're 18 you can do what you want, but I think it would be seen as a normal thing, that you want to serve your family by do performing this service. 

And these would be virgin births. No one is going to have sex to produce these babies, at least as I'm proposing it. I'm saying that if a daughter of the family becomes a mother, an embryo is provided to her. Now I don't know where the embryo comes from. Maybe the stork brings the embryo. I'm not really ready to talk about that. There's a lot of wheeling and dealing involved in obtaining an embryo and deciding which sperm should go together with which with which egg, and I don't think the woman herself should be involved in that. She just receives an embryo as part of her community service. 

She brings the embryo to term, and it is her baby. She can bond with that baby. She can breastfeed that baby under the protection of the family, under the protection of the same household that she grew up in. This same household that is raising the kids also has a maternity room, a place where the woman who is currently pregnant lives, and she gets all the perks. She gets a lot of special treatment in that maternity room. It's a big room.  She doesn't have to work. She's supported by the family, but she will want to work. She'll want to work toward her education or do whatever else that she can do while pregnant, but she gets a lot of privileges as well.

And all the kids in this family, they're watching their sister's belly get bigger and they're all anticipating the birth of the new family [member]. They know where babies come from, and in their world, babies come from embryos which are supplied by the stork. Everybody's excited for this new baby, and when this new baby is born, the mother can bond with this baby as she chooses to, as mothers have always done. It is her baby, and she will always be the mother. At the same time, she doesn't have to change diapers. When it's time to talk to the baby and have fun with the baby and play with the baby, the mother can do it as much as she wants, but she doesn't have to do the dirty work of raising children. She can let her younger siblings raise her children, just like she was raised, and she trusts them because she herself has raised these children, so she knows they will do a good job. 

So the mother can breastfeed her baby for as long as it's appropriate—let's say maybe a year—but she can still go on and do her life. She can pursue her education. She can go to work. She can do a lot of other things, because she has built-in daycare as much as she wants for her babies. Eventually as these babies become toddlers and they become more challenging to take care of, the mother can pull away almost entirely from the family, because now she has performed her community service. She's made her two or three babies, and she's 22, and now she's a full adult, and now she can go off and explore the world. She can pursue a career. She can travel. She can do whatever she wants. She's still the mom, but she knows her babies are safe with the family that she grew up in. 

Adulthood for her proceeds as adulthood proceeds for us. People in adulthood are free to pursue any career they want. They’re free to go anywhere in the world they want. They can have any relationships they want. The only requirement for adults is that they have to pay their family taxes. Family taxes are like the tithe that you pay to a church—10% of your income always has to go back to your birth family to provide financial support for them. 

So what I'm trying to do here is to front-load the baby making, which is the opposite of the back-loaded method that we use today. The way baby making works among disciplined and educated people is that they first pursue their education, then they pursue their career, then they find a committed partner, and then when they've accomplished all these steps, then they have babies. Unfortunately, the woman might be in her 30s at that point when you get all those ducks in a row. The woman could be already at the end of her fertility, so the likelihood is that she's only going to have one or two babies, and that's what I call back-loading. That's the back-loading method of having babies, in that you have to get all your ducks in a row before you have a baby. The front-loading method is you have your babies right away in your teens and twenties when the mother is the healthiest, that's when she has her babies, and she gets that task out of the way, and then she's willing to go on into the community and become a full adult.

So that, as I see it, is the most promising method of making babies in the long run. It requires a little bit of technology because you've got to be able to implant an embryo, but it's technology that we have today, and the best of my knowledge any woman can bear any embryo. It doesn't have to be her egg. It can be someone else's egg and—you can correct me if I'm wrong—but as I understand it, those pregnancies are not particularly dangerous compared to the natural conception method of sperm meets egg. 

So that's my vision of where the babies come from, but the family is going to have their own ideas. The family is going to have their own reproductive philosophy which is going to be present from the time they form the collective. From the time they form the collective, they're going to agree in principle on how we're going to make the babies 20 years from now. That's something that's negotiated among the members of the family. It is part of their identity. Their reproductive philosophy is part of their identity. 

The reproductive policy includes where you get your mothers, but it also includes where you get your embryos. That's a policy decision that I don't want to step into, that I'm not going to dictate from afar. Every family has to decide how they're going to select their embryos, how they're going to select the sperm and egg that make the next generation of children, and that's a complicated thing. It's a messy thing. I'm eager to talk about it in future podcasts, but right now I hope I've answered the question: where do the babies come from? They can come from one of three sources, and you can choose your own preference.


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

{Above reconciled with actual: N/A}
{This script backed up to Email on: 2/15/21}
{Visual version of this script backed up to Twitter on: 2/15/21}

Saturday, December 5, 2020

My Instagram Likes & Dislikes

Below are some of the features I am looking for—and not looking for—in the Instagram accounts I follow. Hopefully, my own Instagram account complies with these preferences.

Instagram Dislikes ๐Ÿ‘Ž

  1. Accounts that consist mainly of the account holder posing in front of exotic tourist attractions. These scenes remind me of hunters posing with the animals they just killed. At the least, you're not engaging in your destination and teaching us anything about it. You just need the "kill".
  2. Photos that are so beautiful that they could be offered on Shutterstock. Stock photos of places and people, no matter how technically stunning, are ultimately boring. I'm not impressed with your National Geographic-quality photos of Maasai tribespeople or scenic waterfalls. These photos are detached and impersonal, and any google search yields hundreds of them.
  3. Personal accounts that consist primarily of a single topic, like food or beer.
  4. Accounts that never include a funny post.
  5. Accounts that never include a video.
  6. Accounts of a pretty young woman (rarely a man) that relies chiefly on her appearance to gain an audience, instead of her content.
  7. Accounts with too many selfies—or none at all.
  8. Bitterness or sarcasm. (but irony is good!)
  9. Interesting photos with no explanation of them in the caption.
  10. Generic inspirational quotes in the caption of your photos. (Please Stop! ๐Ÿ›‘ Just tell me about the post itself.)
  11. Too many reposts from others.

Instagram Likes ๐Ÿ‘

  1. Posts that actively engage with the environment, instead of just observing it from a distance.
  2. Posts that actively engage and challenge the audience.
  3. Posts that teach me something I didn't know.
  4. Funny posts.
  5. Spontaneous posts, even if technically imperfect.
  6. Posts recording the ironies of life.
  7. Accounts with rich and varied content.
  8. Posts of interesting things you just discovered.
  9. Experimentation with new photo and video techniques.
This post was tweeted on 5 Dec 2020.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Why I Need Another Podcast (Kilroy Cafe #1)

This is the script for my Kilroy Cafe podcast episode #1 recorded on 3 December 2020 (released on 4 December 2020). It may differ slightly from the final broadcast. This episode is available on major podcast platforms, including PodbeanApple Podcasts and a video version on YouTube. See the description on the YouTube version for extensive annotations, links and corrections. You can also comment on this episode there. My main website for this project is

I’m Glenn Campbell. Welcome to the first episode of my new podcast, Kilroy Cafe. This is my second podcast after Demographic Doom which I've been generating for over a year. That podcast is concerned with demographics, macroeconomics and the future of the family, and this new podcast is intended for everything else. Who needs another podcast? Well, I do. I don't expect the following on this podcast to be huge, but I need a place to download stuff from my brain to the outside world.

After two health scares in the past two years, I'm concerned more about my long-term legacy than an immediate audience. I've accumulated a lifetime of experience and hopefully wisdom, and one of my main goals now is to spew out as much as I can of it before I die.

Now I don't plan to die anytime soon. At the moment, I am at the peak of outward health, and I hope to keep it that way for decades to come. My health scare was lymphoma, a cancer of the blood, which was first diagnosed in July 2018. It was cured by the end of 2018, but it came back in March 2020. It was cured again by July 2020, and I'm once again in remission. That means that no cancer can currently be detected in my body. That doesn't mean I'm out of the woods, because this is the kind of cancer that is likely to return.

It's entirely possible that lymphoma is the thing that finally kills me, but everyone dies of something, and it's just a matter of putting off the inevitable for as long as possible. My distress about nearly dying in 2018 and 2020 is that I had a whole lot of data still to download, and this podcast is intended to remedy that.

In the past, I have had three main methods of data download: essays, videos and tweets. My written essays appear in many different forms, but the highest form of my art was a series of 69 one-page printable essays called Kilroy Cafe published between May 2008 and April 2010.

The name "Kilroy" was a meme from the World War II era. As American GI's traveled the world, they left behind graffiti of a nose and two eyes peeking over a wall, along with the caption: "Kilroy Was Here". The guy has only one hair on his head, which is one hair more than I have on mine. To me, "Kilroy Was Here" suggests travel, since this guy appeared all over Europe and the South Pacific, wherever the US military was stationed.

In 2008, when I started a new essay series, I was looking for a name for it. At the time, I could travel for free as an airline employee for US Airways. One of the places I visited was the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the town of Cruz Bay on the island of St. John, I took a photo of a local business called Kilroy's Laundry and Dry Cleaning. The sign above the door had the familiar Kilroy icon peering out from a dryer. I replaces "Laundry" with "Cafe" and had the name of my franchise.

The trouble with essays is that no one reads them. My audience for virtually all of my writings has been miniscule, which has never bothered me much in the past, but I'd like my downloads to be appreciated eventually. Essay writing is also a lot of work, because every word has to be perfect. If I misspell something or my grammar is wrong, it makes me look unprofessional. Writing is a precision medium, whereas a podcast is not. A podcast is more vernacular, just like talking to someone in person. You don't expect every word to come out perfectly so long as you get your point across.

I also put my philosophical thoughts into videos, which are also more casual than writing. I am comfortable doing them because they are just like talking to another person. The main problem with videos is that they are a lot of work and extremely time consuming. You have to select the right location and get the lighting right and spend hours in the editing process. I found that I was spending 90% of my time on the mechanics of making the video and only 10% on the content. I could produce a half-dozen essays or podcasts in the time it takes to make one edited video.

So I've settled on podcasts as my best medium for my data downloads. Unlike written essays, I can convey a lot of information in my tone of voice, and I can in theory engage the audience better. I can post my podcasts to YouTube without having to go through the production hell of generating the video component.

With a podcast, I have three output streams, each of which has its own audience: a traditional podcast, a YouTube video and a script. The script appears in my philosophy blog, philosophy dot baddalailama dot com. The podcast is based at PodBean and should be available on most major podcast platforms. The YouTube videos will appear on my Kilroy Cafe Youtube channel, which was my first YouTube account and more recently a place for unedited travel videos. These three output streams add up to a bigger audience than I would have with just a single stream.

All of my recent Demographic Doom episodes are scripted, meaning that I write them out before I record them. I expect only a portion of my Kilroy Cafe episodes to be scripted. Some of them will be off the top of my head, which works well for some topics where I have a pool of knowledge in my databanks that just needs to get out.

So what will I be covering in this podcast. It could be anything that doesn't fit into the Demographic Doom mandate, but I expect their to be three main categories: philosophy, oral histories, and life advice.

Life advice will include travel advice, based on my 13 years of intense travel since 2007. I have already recorded several videos that I call "Superficial Guides". There's a Superficial Guide to Eastern Europe and another Superficial Guide for the Alaska Highway

The idea of a superficial guide is to give you a broad overview of a place rather than too many details. You can pick up all the details you want from the internet, but it is hard to find general evaluations of a place to help you decide, for example, whether or not you should actually go there. I want to deliberately avoid pretty images in these programs, because images can distract you from the big picture. Photography and videography can actually be quite deceptive because they only show you an idealized view of a place.

So in future Kilroy Cafe episodes, I could give you overviews of, say, Western Europe or Canada. I don't have to script these episodes because they are all inside me. I just have to go from East to West or North to South and recall all the places I've been and my impression of them.

Another category I don't expect to script is oral histories. In the past 30 years, since my Area 51 era in the 1990s, I've had a lot of interesting experiences, enough to write a dozen books. The trouble is, I don't have time to write all these books, which have to be perfect just like an essay. The next best thing is to just give this guy a microphone and let him talk. I don't need a script because I can usually just go through events sequentially. I might talk about my Area 51 era, which were my 15 minutes of fame, or any of a dozen other interesting experiences.

Finally, this podcast could be the place for philosophical musings, just like the original Kilroy Cafe essays. These episodes will probably be scripted, because I need to think them through before I record them.

How do I record my podcasts? Right now I'm using a Handy H1N recorder with a furry "dead cat" over the microphone, and I'm editing on my professional video editor, Premiere Pro. My Demographic Doom episodes are heavily edited, but I hope to minimize editing in Kilroy Cafe. I don't have to edit much if I'm talking off the top of my head because you expect stumbles and mistakes.

In both of my podcasts, I'm bound to make factual mistakes, which really bother me. Whenever I detect my own mistakes, I will note the error in the description on the YouTube version of the episode. You should also check the YouTube description for relevant links to other links and resources related to whatever topic I'm talking about.

My output probably won't be too prolific, at least compared to other podcasters. Based on my past experience with Demographic Doom, I can't envision producing more than one Kilroy episode and one Demographic Doom episode per week, and probably fewer. I'm concerned with long-lasting quality, not quantity—although I imagine I'll also churn out the quantity as well.

So I think that's all you know about this podcast before we begin. Now I'll try to record a few episodes and see how it goes.


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog (from both podcasts).

Thursday, November 19, 2020

49. Predictions for the Biden Era (Demographic Doom Podcast)

This is the script for my Demographic Doom podcast episode #49 recorded on 20 November 2020 (released on 21 November 2020). It may differ slightly from the final broadcast. This episode is available on major podcast platforms, including PodbeanApple Podcasts and a video version on YouTube. See the description on the YouTube version for extensive annotations, links and corrections. You can also comment on this episode there. The main website for this project is

I’m Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I’m looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography, or the study of human populations. I'm trying to view humanity from a distance, as aliens would see us from space.

Today is November 21, 2020. It's about 18 days since the presidential election in the United States and about 14 days since media outlets announced the winner, Joe Biden, and the loser, Donald Trump. Whew! That was a nailbiter! Those four days between the election and the announcement of the winner were among the scariest of my life, and I'm including my two brushes with cancer. It would have been truly terrible if Trump had won, and he very nearly did. 47% voted for him, or very nearly half of the electorate. Given his brutish, incompetent and autocratic style, openly demonstrated for four years, he should have been stamped out in a landslide, but he wasn't. It was essentially a routine election, as if both candidates were normal politicians. It's frightening to me how close it came.  

Now this is not a political podcast. I'm concerned with predictable long-term trends, not the politics of the moment, but this election was such a momentous one that I can't help but vent just a little. At least, I can make some predictions about the next four years based on what demographics and macroeconomics are telling us. 

I have no idea what is going to happen in American in the next week or even the next year. I don't have that kind of crystal ball. Demographics and macroeconomics yield predictions over a longer term. I feel more comfortable making forecasts over the next 4 to 8 years, or the term of the new President. Spoiler alert: That future looks bleak. The systemic disintegration continues, regardless of who is President, but it might be progressing just a little slower now. 

I guess I should be grateful to Donald Trump in one way. He was responsible for my Demographic Doom project and ultimately this podcast. My passion for demography was born four years ago, on November 9, 2016, or the day after Trump was elected. Like many others on this planet, I was shell-shocked. I asked myself, "How can could so many people be so stupid?" This launched me into the study of populations and what could be happening to them. Demography seemed natural because elections are, by definition, masses of people doing things. Once I got into it, I found that the problem was far bigger than Trump. He was more a symptom of dysfunction than a cause. The real issue was the progressive deterioration of the economic systems that we all depend on. Voters were hurting, so they lashed out in the only way they had: They voted for the protest candidate that all the experts told them not to vote for.

You might want to check out the video I recorded two days after the 2016 election, which tells you what I was thinking at the time. The link is found in the video version of this episode, or you can search YouTube for "Demographic Doom Glenn Campbell Trump", in that order. That video, recorded in Florida, marked the birth of my demographic project, although it took me a while to achieve its current formulation.

After I started inquiring into demography, the first surprising thing I learned was that the "population explosion", treated as gospel by my generation, was in fact a lie. Most countries of the world are on the brink of a population implosion, and this reversal of growth is having a lot of devastating economic effects. It means, for one thing, that there will be a ton of old people in the world and very few active workers to support them. This is ultimately expressed by debt, whether it is explicit debt on the books right now, or implied debts called "unfunded liabilities" which are debts we know are coming down the road. 

For example, we know a certain number of people will be filing for Social Security in coming years, even though they haven't done it yet. Demographic problems inevitably turn into macroeconomic problems, where we are looking at the state of whole monetary systems. The state of our current monetary system is dire, and it was dire even before Covid, because there are clearly more debts in the world than can possibly be paid back.

Nearly all forms of debt are problematic these days, be it government debt, corporate debt, consumer debt or student loan debt. There's no magic wand you can wave to make all these debts go away. There are magic wands that seem to make debt go away, but they're really just kicking the can down the road and making the problem worse. The Federal Reserve can print money and hold interest rates at zero. Maybe the incoming President can wave a magic wand and make student loans disappear, but as you might suspect, all these magic solutions come at a cost. Eventually the magic runs out and backfires on you.

The bottom line is that without unrealistic economic growth, based largely on population, most of the debts of the world are simply unpayable and are destined to fail. If you look at government debt alone, it's just astounding how much there is and how much new debt governments have accumulated in the wake of the pandemic. This year, in 2020, the US government will spend roughly twice as much money as it is received in taxes, and the shortfall is ultimately being covered through money printing and interest rate suppression. These are slight-of-hand tricks that can't go on forever. Sooner or later, the system has to fail catastrophically, and I'm betting it's going to start during the Biden administration. 

When we dumped Trump for Biden, we gained only momentary relief—in that the President of the United States of America is no longer actively trying destroy the United States of America. I think everyone on the planet can breathe a sigh of relief for that, but I'm not inclined to celebrate in the street. The demographic crisis, the debt crisis and the money printing crisis are still with us. The Titanic has already struck the iceberg, and there's nothing even the most organized and well-intentioned government can do about it.

Before I go on, let me do a little analysis of the the four-year Trump administration and how it might have changed our demographics. Demography is concerned with the big picture: What are whole populations doing? To begin with, Trump actively killed a fair number of Americans. As of today, roughly 250,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus. There is little doubt that a more organized Federal response would have reduced that number. Let's say only 100,000 would have died if America had been on top of this from Day One, which leaves 150,000 deaths that Trump might be blamed for.

That's certainly a devastating toll for the people and families involved, but from a demographic standpoint, it's a drop in the bucket. There are about 328 million people in the United States, so even if we have a million Covid deaths, it won't significantly impact our population profile. I'm not trying to minimize the suffering and societal costs involved. I'm only saying that Covid deaths alone don't change our long-term population trajectory.

I guess if you want to congratulate Trump for something, he saved America some elder-care costs. Among the casualties of Trump's incompetence, the majority seem to be older Americans, retirement age and above, who you can cynically argue weren't producing much for America anyway. If someone is killed at age 70 instead of living to age 85, the U.S. has saved 15 years of Social Security, Medicare costs and pension disbursements for them. So congratulations, President Trump! I guess that's a silver lining if you want to look at it that way, and you do hear a lot of this reasoning in the right-wing media: These people were going die anyway, and the virus just killed them off a little sooner. 

I'm a little sensitive about that personally, because I'm starting to be labeled as "older" and I don't think my days of productivity are over. I'm not eager to be a part of the culling of the herd. I'd rather not be killed by Covid or bad government policy, but that's just me. Rather than getting sucked into this debate, I just want to point out that the cost savings in Covid deaths is still statistically insignificant. Killing off, say, 100,000 retirees won't rescue Social Security or Medicare. The long-term numbers are still terrible. There are still too many people retiring with not enough workers to support them.

Demographically, I think Covid deaths are a lot less significant than damage to US immigration. Trump has poisoned the well by making immigration to the U.S. much more odious. He hasn't just restricted immigration at the border. He has made America much less appealing to potential immigrants overseas who haven't even applied. The Trump Administration has essentially been a 4-year worldwide television ad for the dysfunction and xenophobia of America. Like every other developed country, America is in desperate need of high-quality immigrants to make up for their own lack of births, and Trump has decimated our marketing effort.

Immigrants, especially skilled ones, are a winning proposition for the receiving country because they usually go to work immediately and start paying taxes immediately without that country having to pay for their upbringing and education. It's a losing proposition for the country the immigrants come from, but it is mostly positive for any country fortunate enough to be able to attract talented immigrants. Sadly, Trump has made the U.S. a lot less attractive to skilled workers. If you were a trained professional from, say, Asia, and you had your choice of emigrating to the U.S. or Germany, the U.S. has really lost its sheen. I can't quantify this yet, but it will eventually show up in immigration statistics. I predict that the cost to the country of lost immigrant appeal will be far greater than the money saved by killing off 100,000 seniors.

So what's my overall assessment of Trump? Well, not good. I don't need to belabor the point, but he did not, in fact, Make America Great Again. He made America a pariah that no talented foreign professional would want to move to.

In this podcast, I am attracted to things that are predictable. Demographics are predictable, in that you know for a fact that you're not going to have more tax-paying workers 20 years from now than you have children today—unless, of course, you import them. Macroeconomics is also predictable, mainly in one critical assumption: In the long run, you can't spend more money than you make. I know some people are going to argue with that. Since the government runs the printing press, it can print as much money as it wants, but this experiment always ends badly. Always. Unrestrained money creation has ended badly in the past and it will end badly in the future, even if the effects are delayed. I can't tell you how and when it will end, but it will end, and if I had to place a bet on when the bad ending will get rolling, I'd say it will happen within the next 4 to 8 years.

Beyond that broad framework, specific predictions for how things will fail are very difficult. Over the past 4½ years, a lot of things happened that I never would have guessed. Who could have predicted in 2015 that Donald Trump would become President? No one could have predicted the appearance of the coronavirus, at least in its timing and and origin—although plenty of scientists have warned the something like this was destined to happen. 

The most stunning surprise to me is how the devastating economics of the pandemic has led to a rise in stock markets. It may no longer be true by the time you listen to this, but right now some markets are at all-time highs, in spite of the horrible state of the economy. Furthermore, I would never have predicted that the government would print so much money without triggering massive consumer inflation. By all rights, we should be in Zimbabwe territory by now, but we're not.

If I tried to make specific predictions about any of these things, I would have been wrong, but I'm still confident of my broader macroeconomic and demographic predictions, as expressed in earlier podcasts. In my Podcast #22 on December 13, 2019—that is, before the coronavirus—I predicted the 2020s would be a horrible, devastating decade for the world economy. I and others speculated that an unknown Black Swan would trigger a collapse, but we couldn't have known what that bird would be. That's how demographics and macroeconomics work: You can predict rising tensions that have to be resolved, but you can't say exactly how and when the reckoning will happen. You know that a lot of dynamite has accumulated, but you don't know what spark will set it off.

Compared to the Trump Administration, we know that the Biden Administration is going to be relatively competent, filled with smart, capable people who genuinely care about the country, but I have doubts about how much competence can accomplish on a sinking ship. If you change the management of the Titanic after it has already struck the iceberg, you might be able to reduce the loss of life through, say, more organized use of lifeboats, but all the competence in the world can't stop the ship from sinking.

Our demographic ship started sinking in the 1960s with the invention of reliable birth control, and our macroeconomic ship started sinking in the last Global Financial Crisis around 2009, or maybe decades earlier depending how you look at it. You can't put those genies back in their bottles. What we are destined to have during the Biden Administration is a ton of things falling apart in rapid succession. I can't tell you what will fall apart and in what order, but conceptually, the ship has struck the iceberg and has already taken in enough water to sink it. It's just taking the ship a while to figure that out. 

So many systems are falling apart that it's hard to know where to begin, but there are a couple of pending collapses that should be obvious to anyone looking at things from afar. One crisis is overvalued assets, like stocks, bonds and real estate. These pigs can't continue to fly while the real economy is in the pits. There has to be a reckoning sooner or later. 

Another obvious crisis is that no government can keep printing money forever. Something has to break, even though I don't know what that something is. A government, like an individual, can't consistently spend more money than it makes. The government's income is called "taxes" which are based on economic activity. If economic activity falls, as it has during the pandemic, then taxes will fall, too, even as the government is spending more than it ever has before. You can keep the Ponzi scheme afloat as long your economy is growing, but ours isn't growing and never again will, because we don't have enough workers and consumers. This pyramid scheme is going to fall the way they always do: with the sudden realization that there's not nearly as much value in the system as everyone thought there was.

Imagine what it would take for the US government to balance its books. In the current environment, it would either have to double taxes or cut its spending in half, both of which are politically and practically impossible. The third option is incredible economic growth, which just ain't gonna happen, even if the pandemic is resolved. The Federal Reserve is locked into a self-reinforcing regime of money printing and artificially low interest rates, which are eroding the foundations of the financial system, and there's literally no way out. There is no coherent theory anyone can offer for how this ends gracefully. The end can only be compared to the Fall of Rome but a whole lot faster.

Joe Biden comes into office with a mission to fix the country, but he can't. The main crisis isn't the virus but the economic collapse that was destined to happen anyway. Any relief from the virus or the economic pain involves spending still more money that the government doesn't have. For example, Biden can try to enact another stimulus program to send free money to citizens, but that's only temporary relief that creates as many problems as it solves. It's not going to repair anything, only delay the inevitable.

Nothing Biden can do will stop Baby Boomers from retiring en masse, or at least reaching retirement age, where they get less productive and a whole lot more expensive. That time bomb has been ticking since the 1960s, and no government policy is going to defuse it. 

Likewise, nothing Biden can do will neutralize the massive debts the government and private sector have accumulated—debts that can't possibly be repaid. By definition, debts that keep growing without reprieve must eventually end in some form of default, which wipes out the wealth of everyone who holds that debt. "Debt forgiveness" sounds like a good idea until you realize that somebody has to lose, and it isn't always fat-cat capitalists. Retirees lose their homes when their pension funds fail because they invested in risky bonds. When debts don't get paid, wealth simply vanishes. It magically goes away, and suddenly people who thought they were well-off find they are poor.

That's one of the things I'm predicting in the next 4 to 8 years: a massive evaporation of wealth. People who thought they were wealthy will find out it was an illusion. There are two ways this can happen: the price of assets can crash, or inflation can erode the value of those assets. 

For example, if you own a home valued at a million dollars, you might think you are rich, but that valuation can change quickly. Your home's perceived value is based on recent sales of comparable homes in your neighborhood. There is no guarantee that you will actually get a million dollars when you come to sell. We saw that happen in 2008 and 2009. People who thought they had million dollar homes found they could only sell for, say, half a million, if anyone wanted to buy it at all. In that case, the half-million more that you thought you simply vanished—or more properly, it never really existed to begin with.

Inflation works differently, but the net result is the same. Let's say you manage to sell your house for a million dollars but the buying power of a million dollars has eroded due to inflation. You still have a million in the bank, but it might buy only what a half million bought a few years ago. What really matters is the purchasing power of the money, not the money itself.

And 50% is roughly the magnitude I'm predicting. In the next 4 to 8 years, I predict that most assets will fall in value by at least half, either through price crashes or inflation. I'm talking about nearly all assets: stocks, bonds, real estate, fine art... anything an investor might put their money into to try to preserve or increase their wealth. The only exemption I might grudgingly make is gold. I really don't understand gold, so I don't know whether it will go up or down. Gold is something without much practical value that is worth whatever investors think it is, so it is speculative like every other asset. The only assets that aren't speculative are things that people actually use to stay alive, like grain.

I had a podcast about grain. It was Episode #7, about the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Roman empire ran on grain. That's what powered all of its operations. Farmers produced grain, which was taxed by the empire and used to pay soldiers and bureaucrats and build all those monuments. The empire got in trouble when it started spending more grain than it produced. In the minds of some scholars, that's what really caused the Fall of Rome: deficit spending. The empire had more obligations than it could make good on based on its grain production. You can't tax the farmers too much, because you end up killing the farmers. That same idea applies to our society: There is a core production of taxable activity, which is taxed to pay for government operations, and for years, the US government has been spending far more than that. The government can't raise taxes too high, or it kills production, so it's stuck with a finite income and infinitely growing debts. You can't spend more than you make, because ultimately you got to produce the grain to pay all these debts or the whole house of cards collapses.

Similar insanity applies to stocks. A stock is a slice of the future profits of a company. You buy a company like Tesla not because it is profitable now, but because you think it will be profitable in the future, but those profits would have to be truly massive to justify current stock prices. As of today, the Tesla stock price is close to $500 a share today compared to $86 a share at the beginning of the year, before the pandemic. That's a 6-fold increase in price in spite of the pandemic, which will almost certainly hurt car sales.

I don't want to get into a debate about the merits of Tesla. My point is, the entire stock market in the U.S. is vastly overvalued in relation to the future profits that are likely to be generated. You can argue about specific companies and their prospects, but the overvaluation of the whole market is measurable. You judge it by the "market capitalization to GDP" ratio, or the "Buffett Indicator". If you add up all the values of all the stocks on all the US stock markets, you get the total "book value" of all those stocks. You then compare that number to the total GDP of the country and you get a percentage. 

Traditionally, if market capitalization is between 75% and 90% of GDP, the market is said to be fairly valued. Today's ratio is something like 175%, which suggests the total market is overvalued by a factor of two. To make markets rational again, stocks would have to fall by about 50%, which is what I thought would happen in March. Instead, we got an insane boom in stock prices, at least in the US—literally all-time highs in the Dow and S&P in the last few days. There are a lot of explanations for this, including the announcement of two potential coronavirus vaccines, but it's still insane no matter how you slice it. Even if they distribute a vaccine tomorrow, a lot of damage has been done to the economy that won't go away anytime soon.

When the bubble bursts, it won't just be wealthy investors that lose. When wealth vanishes, everybody loses, including people who own no stocks but lose their jobs when rich people stop buying things.

Politics, of course, is much harder to predict. Who in 2015 could have predicted Trump's election? It was just so outlandish. What is not outlandish, however, are the economic instabilities that give rise to this kind of anarchy. You can't predict specific incidents, like who will rise to power or which act of terrorism will come next, but you can predict that the conditions remain ripe for extremism. As the economy deteriorates for ordinary voters, the conditions are optimal for another Trump-like character to arise.

What are these conditions? In a word: misery. Misery is real among the electorate, and it is measurable. It mainly has to do with wealth inequality. In recent decades, the rich have been getting richer while everyone else gets poorer. The dim-witted voter doesn't know what has gone wrong. All he knows is that he's a lot less comfortable in life than he used to be. This change in circumstances leads to rage, which is often directed at the wrong targets.

One other thing I never would predicted was race riots in the middle of a pandemic, but in retrospect it makes sense. The riots were triggered by black people dying in police custody. Whether things like this are ignored or trigger an explosion depends on how much social dynamite has already been stored up, and evidently there's a lot of it. I wouldn't say that race is the key issue. I think income inequality is the key issue, because White Trump supporters are feeling the same thing. Everyone has the sense that "My life is pretty miserable right now," but different groups pick different targets for their rage. Rage can be expressed by burning down Kenosha, Wisconsin or by voting for an obvious psychopath. If the economic misery becomes too great, the rage becomes unstoppable, and a lot more than Kanosha, Wisconsin gets burned down.

The election of Joe Biden may have bought America a brief reprieve, but the core economic misery hasn't been relieved, and I don't think it can be. When the economy collapses even further and people are even more miserable than they are now, there will be more unrest and more rage directed at convenient targets. The most convenient target of all is the current government, which will inevitably be blamed for economic problems that have been incubating for decades. 

When more bad things happen and Biden gets blamed, it is likely that another Trump-like character will arise to channel voter rage. You can't predict who that will be or how he will take power. The only thing I dare predict is that it will be a "he" not a "she" and he will be a whole lot smarter and more Machiavellian than Trump was.

As an American and a world citizen, I'm relieved that we're finally rid of Trump—that is, if he actually relinquishes the position in January—but I'm still deeply worried. The 2016 vote could be seen as a fluke vote for a protest candidate, but 2020 proved that it's not a fluke. After four years of hell, 47% percent of voters wanted the hell to continue. Especially the White Christians! In 2016, 81% of  White Evangelicals voted for Trump, and it looks like the number hasn't changed much in 2020 (See Pew). I just can't fathom this. Here is the most un-Christian man on the planet, who in my mind embodies pure Biblical evil, and Christians are willing to set aside all their professed beliefs to vote for him. Some of them think he is the second coming of Christ, quite literally.

Over the past four years, Trump made every political blunder imaginable, and it didn't sink in with these voters. Trump was opposed by vast juggernaut of celebrities, comedians, respected past leaders and experts of all stripes, and it made no difference. Roughly half of America is willing to vote for a craven, self-serving autocrat, and we shouldn't feel comforted that less than half actually made it to the polls. If Trump had been only slightly more clever or the opposition slightly less effective, the election would have gone to a despot again. This can only happen a few more times before America becomes an 1984-style autocracy.

And all those conditions are still in place. 47% of Americans stand ready to vote for the would-be dictator, and they need only 3%, or even less, to make it happen. Even if Trump is gone, the infrastructure for autocracy is already in place. It is called the Republican Party. Like White Evangelicals, they have abandoned all pretext of principles in favor of the naked pursuit of power. In my mind, Democrats have a lot of kooky ideas, but Republicans, or at least those elected to power, seem to have none, but still 47% of the electorate will support them no matter what. All they need is that extra 3%, which can easily be delivered to them by the growing economic misery I am predicting.

Trump's saving grace was his stupidity. He wanted to become a dictator in the same way that Dr. Evil really, really wants to rule the world, but he was just too egotistical and self-destructive to pull it off. Every time he tried to implement a nefarious scheme, he himself would sabotage it.

The next would-be autocrat might not be so dumb.


Subscribe to this podcast for more observations from a demographic philosopher. In the next episodes I hope to get back to my Post-Nuclear Family, where I still have a lot of explaining to do. I encourage your input. If you have anything to say, you can email me or post a comment to the YouTube version of this episode. My contact information is found in the YouTube description.


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.