I’ll be gone, you’ll still be here

I’m 81 years old today.  I don’t come from a long-lived family, and I have what they call a pre-existing medical condition, so I don’t expects decades more of life ahead of me.

I sometimes regret I won’t see what the future holds in store.  But the more I think about the future, the more I’m relieved that I won’t.

The odds are good that I will win what Ian Welsh calls the death bet – the bet that I will have enjoyed the good things the world has to offer and die before I have to pay the price.  If you are 60 years old are younger, the odds are that you will lose.


Right before the financial crash of 2008, there was a saying among Wall Street speculators about when the financial bubble would burst.  “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.”

In fact none of them suffered any bad consequences from their actions, up to and including financial fraud.  President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner arranged to have the big banks and investment firms bailed out of the consequences of their mistakes, and Attorney-General Eric Holder declined to prosecute financial fraud by heads of companies deemed “too big to fail.”

The Federal Reserve Board and Treasury Department prioritized reviving the stock market, to the great benefit of owners of stocks and bonds, including investors in mutual funds such as myself.   But then, even under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the financial markets recovered before the job markets did.

Now the U.S. economy is in another bubble, just like the last one—overhangs of debt that can’t be paid, increasing concentration of wealth at the top, the decline of the mass consumer market and the failure of either corporations or the government to invest for the future.

It’s probable, but not certain, that the government will succeed in bailing out the big players, just like the last time.  What is certain is that this can’t go on forever.   Without big changes in the financial system, there will be a final crash in which the institutions are not too big to fail, but are too big to rescue.


For more than 60 years, the United States government’s policy toward nuclear war was deterrence.  The theory is that the best way to be safe from war is to have nuclear weapons and be willing to use them if necessary.  In other words, if you want peace, be prepared to go to war.

So far this policy has worked.  We’ve gone to the brink of war a couple of times, sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly, but we’ve always pulled back in time.   There have long been factions in the U.S. government that wanted to pre-emptively use nuclear weapons, but they’ve always been sidelined or disregarded.

I think it is likely to work—right up until the time it doesn’t work, and it only has to fail once.  If you play a game of Russian roulette, you’re likely—although not certain—to win.  If you continually play Russian roulette, you’re certain to someday lose.

I don’t expect nuclear war with North Korea, although the chances are more than zero.  I don’t expect nuclear war with Russia, although the chances are greater than war with North Korea.   But unless our policy changes, both concerning armaments and our foreign policy in general, there will be a war in which we and everybody else will be the loser.


At the present time, U.S. power rests on the power to intimidate.   We wage economic warfare, proxy warfare and special operations against nations that rebel against U.S. domination.

This is not sustainable.  We don’t have the resources to maintain economic domination indefinitely, we don’t have the resources to project global military power indefinitely and few of us Americans have the will to fight in foreign lands against people who don’t directly threaten us.

The most significant geo-political event of the present day is the extension of Chinese power into the heartland of Eurasia, by means of investment in railroads, pipelines and other infrastructure.

U.S. anti-Russian policies has cut Russia off from much of its natural markets in Europe.  As a result, Russia is fated to become a resource colony of China.

Geographers have long seen this heartland as a key to world power, and it is out of reach of American sea and air power.

Machiavelli said it is better to be feared than loved, but the strongest bond is mutual self-interest.   Unless our policy changes, the nations of the world will unite against us, like children in a schoolyard ganging up on a bully.


Catastrophic global climate change is already upon us.   Just read the news about hurricanes and droughts.   Of course there have always been hurricanes and droughts, and there’s no way to say that any particular weather event in due to global warming.  But the increasing frequency of these events is no accident, and it is likely to get worse.

Everything that is now happening is the result of decisions made a generation or more ago.   Any new policy we adopt toward climate change will not have any impact for at least a generation.   What we do now will depend on how much we care about generations yet to come.


I’m a winner in life’s lottery.   I was born in the United States of America, a nation that many people spend hundreds of thousands of collars or take enormous risks to get into.   I was born in 1936, which meant I experienced the greatest economic boom the world had ever seen up until this time.   I was too young to be sent to fight in Korea and too old to be sent to fight in Vietnam.

I enjoy the benefits of Social Security, Medicare and a company pension, none of which are certain to be available for the next generation.

People like me should have left a more peaceful and just world for the following generations, but we didn’t.  Some in my generation did everything they could to create a just, peaceful and sustainable world, but I am not one of them.  This is partly because of honest ignorance at the time, more because of willful ignorance and mostly because of laziness and cowardice.   It’s only now that I am waking up to reality, and it’s too late to matter.

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5 Responses to “I’ll be gone, you’ll still be here”

  1. Jack Says:

    Happy Birthday Phil! As always I enjoy reading your blogs.


  2. silverapplequeen Says:

    Reblogged this on silverapplequeen and commented:
    Written by a man of my parents’ generation. He is, in fact, just a year younger than my mother. I like that he owns up to world his generation created … great for them but not for anyone coming after them.


  3. Bill Harvey Says:

    Happy Birthday, Phil! You’ve made a mark on my life, and I knew it long before the past few years when we’ve become pen pals. I count our mutual friend as my main political mentor in the world- he blushes- and I’ve always been aware of your impact on his life. I’ll leave all that to him to say.

    And the pen pal relationship has probably been more valuable to me than you realize- I check out every one of your posts. Keep them coming!

    And many more Happy Birthdays!



  4. maryplumbago Says:

    Just ran across this! Wow what a wise and prophetic post. Excellent!


  5. Vincent Says:

    I’m very glad you’re still here and active in 2021, keeping your finger on the pulse of civilization as it strikes you.


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