is a smart guy. I just got his book Crash Course
. Although I haven't read it yet, I'm familiar with his idea that various factors--specifically energy, economics, and the environment--are converging and will cause our world to change in short order. Well, that's sort of an understatement...we could well be facing a social, political, and economic catastrophe.
As Martenson points out, we have experienced exponential growth in a number of areas over the past century, including world population, water utilization, food consumption, energy consumption, money supply, and debt. With the exception of fiat currency and debt, this growth has meant that natural resources are being used at an ever increasing rate.
In the case of oil, the cheap stuff is pretty much gone. Oil is the linchpin of our modern world; it is the foundation for virtually everything else. The higher the price of oil, the more expensive everything else becomes. Without cheap energy, the rapid growth that we have seen in the other above mentioned areas cannot continue and will begin to collapse, possible exponentially as well.
Back in the early 1800s, Thomas Malthus predicted that the world's population growth would some day prove unsustainable. Luckily, Malthus turned out to be wrong, mostly because the Industrial Revolution resulted in an explosive increase in productivity, easily supporting the world's ever increasing population.
Despite this fact, Malthus's ideas have attracted a following throughout the years, including, unfortunately, lots of the bad guys. (As an aside, Chris Martenson is not one of these bad guys. I have found his work enlightening and crucial for understanding things as they really are.) Malthusianism is the central planner's nirvana: nothing is beyond their control, including life itself, because the future of the world and our species depends on it.
Quite frankly, that is complete bunk. The reason that we could face a Malthusian crisis is not because the central planners do not have enough control over the world's resources, but specifically because they have any control over the world's resources. If the free market had been allowed to function properly, none of this would be happening. Of course, ultimately, the central planners will fail to acknowledge that they caused the crisis to begin with and demand more power to "solve" it.
Now, you might ask, how could the free market deal with a problem like water consumption? The answer is the free market's price mechanism.
Water currently suffers from the "tragedy of the commons." It is considered a "public good" and therefore not subject to market prices. In other words, it is owned by everyone. As Charles Goyette says, what is owned by everyone is really owned by no one. Since no one really owns it, no one is concerned with the efficient exploitation of the resource, including conserving it so that the resource is not depleted.
America's aquifers, the wellspring of our agricultural production, are drying up. The reason is because no clearly defined property rights have been applied to them. Instead the government just hands down fiat edicts about the use of water from the aquifers. (How would one determine who owns the aquifers? I haven't the slightest idea, but this isn't the first time that a complex problem about property rights has been encountered
Likewise, look at all the government interventions in food. Part of what is driving food prices higher worldwide are the subsidies given to corn farmer for ethanol. Farmers are raising less of other crops in order to free up farm land for the production of corn. This corn is not sold as food, but converted into ethanol, an extremely inefficient fuel relative to oil. Additionally, land once used to graze livestock or raise other crops is now used to grow corn, often exacerbating the depletion of the water supply.
Another example is oil itself. Because of all the government interventions in the oil market, we have no idea what the real price of oil is. Oil companies are subsidized, taxed, and regulated to the point that it is impossible to determine oil's true market price. Now, we face a situation in which the oil supply could drop dramatically (and overnight if there is a problem in the Middle East) and there are no viable substitutes.
If the oil market were a free market, a rise in the price would be an incentive for entrepreneurs to develop new technologies, either to more efficiently use oil or to develop completely new forms of energy. But this process takes time and, while some progress has been made, it appears that we could be out of time very soon and be facing an energy cliff.
And the problems go on and on. The potential Malthusian catastrophe that we face is not a natural inevitability, but just another example of the silent yet destructive nature of the State.