I finally decided to write this after reading Oregon County Decides to Go Native by DA. My thesis is: we’re too confident of our ability to survive changes, and are too inclined to make risky changes, or fail to invest is safety.
This might surprise some of you who misread Economics and Climatology? or On getting out more. In some senses, “economics” is the full-throttle never-mind-the-dangers end of the spectrum, though you could argue that, at least in theory, it builds in some caution. But, as usual, it isn’t the economics, its the politics that is the problem. Which inevitably comes round to “its the electorate that is the problem” as DA’s story nicely shows.
What I was thinking was that in the “Goode Olde Dayes” of grinding rural poverty on the land for 80% of the population, anyone or any region who got too carried away trying out exciting new ideas without a decent backstop stood a fair chance of starving to death when their new crop failed. We’ve pretty well lost that caution: few people think we’re in any danger of starving to death, and those who do are generally treated as wild-eyed wackos. I don’t think its particularly likely myself, at least not any time in the near future. The danger is more that we have an apparently resilient society, but perhaps it isn’t as resilient as we think. There is a finance analogue to this too, in that people have somehow come to believe that the Euro mess will have a happy ending, possibly if everyone keeps insisting that All Will Be Well. But it might not be.
But there is safety in diversity. The residents of Josephine County (pop: 83,000), in southwestern Oregon are safe (in the long term, as a bloc; possibly not in the short term as individuals). If their experiment goes horribly wrong they can leave, or the Feds will step in. And it will be an interesting experiment, for good or ill.