Middle East Math is Disturbing

Protesters in Yemen

This week, protests in the Middle East continued to take hold in countries such as Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen and even Iran.  Call it Middle East unrest, the pro-democracy movement or people just fed up with dictators in power.

I pray for all men to be free and to have democracy, but freedom and democracy cannot produce energy, rainfall or fertile farm ground.  Those things are necessary for life itself.  A reader sent me a disturbing set of facts about Egypt, the most recent country to topple its dictator. The “math,”as   financial writer and scientist Chris Martenson says, is “relentless,” and as my reader writes, “demonstrates that no matter who rules Egypt, future prospects are grim.”

The relentless math:
Population 1960: 27.8 million
Population 2008: 81.7 million
Current population growth rate: 2% per annum (a 35-year doubling rate)
Population in 2046 after another doubling: 164 million
Rainfall average over whole country: ~ 2 inches per year
Highest rainfall region: Alexandria, 7.9 inches per year
Arable land (almost entirely in the Nile Valley): 3%
Arable land per capita: 0.04 Ha (400 m2)
Arable land per capita in 2043: 0.02 Ha
Food imports: 40% of requirements
Grain imports: 60% of requirements
Net oil exports: Began falling in 1997, went negative in 2007
(For the complete post from ChrisMartenson.com click here.)

Egypt looks to be long on population growth and short on natural resources.  James Howard Kunstler writes about dwindling resources in some of his futuristic books.  His expertise is oil.  If you don’t have it, then you can’t do much else in today’s world.  And just because Egypt got Mubarak to step down, doesn’t mean its democracy will thrive and its problems are over—far from it.  I wish the very best for the people of Egypt, but the road to true democracy will be difficult.  Please read Mr. Kunstler’s take on the not-so-distant future of Egypt and the Middle East. –Greg Hunter.–



By James Howard Kunstler

Guest Writer for USAWatchdog.com

For a month, Egypt has been a magic mirror for America to behold its own wonderfulness, like a diorama of “Freedom and Democracy” out of a Kentucky creationist museum.  In this, our hour of national narcissism, we imagine a replay of Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, and Yorktown – with a falafel on top – in the streets of Cairo in order to prop up our own disintegrating self-esteem, while committing arson on our national household.

Also conveniently forgotten for the moment – because there’s nothing dramatic about nothing happening – is that a particular corner of the Middle East remained stable for thirty-odd years. Did we fork over $70 billion to Hosni Mubarak during that period so he wouldn’t start another war? Could be. But it was surely money better spent than the even larger nut we dropped all at once on AIG, Goldman Sachs, and a few other domestic fungi on the tree of liberty back home. And we’re still shoveling billions from the Federal Reserve into a claque of Too-Big-To-Fail banks in the form of a ZIRP loan carry trade under the pretense that they can use it to shore up their “reserve ratios.” A lot of people from New Jersey to Seattle need their reserves shored up, too, but they can forget about running personal ZIRP carry trade rackets out of the Fed’s loan window.

Contrary to what some readers suppose, cynicism (as in, thinking the worst of everything about everyone) is really not my bag – though comedy is another matter. However, if ever cynicism was an appropriate response to something, it would be the initial throes of a political revolution. The early triumphs in and around Paris after 1789 must have been soul-stirring, but you could forgive a casual observer who caught the scent of trouble in the air – and what followed was a years-long dismaying merry-go-round of mis-rule that climaxed in the Reign of Terror and finally resolved a full decade later in the crowning of another absolute monarch: the emperor Napoleon.  Gazing back at all that, it really took France nearly a century to get its act together politically from the moment that the governor of the Bastille surrendered his keys.

All forms of government in recent times find themselves in the same predicament: the mismanagement of contraction. Too many people and too many enterprises are competing for a contracting resource base. In many poor countries it expresses itself plainly as expensive food, or no food at all for some. The expensive food part of the story is already being felt in the wealthier countries, too, but the contraction expresses itself more in terms of money – many people do not have enough, or else much less than they were used to having, and at the same time the money that does circulate seems increasingly worthless. So we have the great debate over whether the contraction is deflationary or inflationary.

That debate could not happen if money retained its essential meaning as a reliable medium of exchange, but the idea of what exactly money is, is becoming increasingly clouded everywhere as compound interest fails in the face of contraction. And as compound interest fails – in the form of loans that can’t be repaid – the banking system implodes. This implosion has been artfully papered over with enough accounting tricks so that many citizens do not even perceive it as being underway. The results are insidious: falling living standards, no role to play in the economy (that is, a job), and a shocking array of social pathologies ranging from nearly universal family dysfunction to men acting like babies to obscene discrepancies in income.

The one thing that’s not contracting for now is the human population, inarguably in overshoot in relation to available resources, but population is a lagging indicator. Some people will still have sex, and produce the results of it, even when they’re starving. But meanwhile disease and strife creep into picture and you get the failure of public health systems, and military misadventures over oil or water, and after a while even a lagging indicator gets dragged into center stage. Of course, I’m persuaded that arguing about “overpopulation” is rather silly, since we are not going to do a goshdarn thing about it in terms of policies or protocols. (My own suggestion to make abortion retroactive has not been greeted with enthusiasm.)

You could probably pick the next location in the Middle East revolution derby by pitching a dart at the map. Just about all of them are ready to go up in flames for one reason or another – that really boil down to dwindling resources. And then, there are the various beefs, grudges, and jealousies that could prompt conflict between them, too. Lots of folks, for instance, are probably wondering what Hezbollah aims to do with its impressive collection of rockets.

I don’t blame poor Mr. Obama for trying to keep the lid on all this – which is arguably a conceit in itself – since the country that he is most in charge of whirls around a very impressive drain of hopeless debt and vanishing prospects. But my guess is that the next big event in the center ring of current affairs will be a First World money crisis. It is true that the stock market only goes up. And then, one fine day, a large, angry, long-necked bird unfurls a set of elegant black wings and goes honking off into a red sun, and suddenly you are in a new realm where the stock market only goes down… and certain sovereign bond rates soar with that angry bird… and things Too-Big-To-Fail fall on their asses and fail… and everything changes.

We read this morning that Egypt is under martial law with a suspended constitution – a logical step, given the army takeover, but not something that makes you want to buff up your flag lapel pin and say a prayer for the ghost of Winston Churchill. Things are definitely in flux. Here in upstate New York, the sap is about to run in the diseased maple trees.


James Howard Kunstler’s new novel of the post-oil future, World Made By Hand, is available at all booksellers.  If you want to go to Mr. Kunstler’s web site (click here.)

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  1. Mitchell Bupp

    No doubt Greg, the numbers do not lie, but our leaders do either willingly or through gross incompetence ….

  2. Art Barnes

    Quote…”and things Too-Big-To-Fail fall on their asses and fail… and everything changes”… Profound, and here we are, just around the corner – “the times they are a changing”. Great article. America, take this article to heed, the soup our government and the big shots has got us in is starting to boil. Turn off the sitcom and start a garden or, at least, do something everyday to get self sufficent.

  3. Frank Brady

    U.S. politicians, the mass media, and the educational establishment have been conflating “democracy” with “freedom” for considerably more than a century. Mubarak’s dictatorship is only the first casualty of the unfolding events in Egypt. Mubarak’s fall, plus the trajectory of other events in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and across northern Africa should convince even the most obtuse that the inevitable result of “democracy” in Islamic countries will be the election of regimes that support Islam.

    The distinction between freedom and “democracy” is not a small thing. The American people were free, not because they could vote, but because the Constitution limited government’s power over them no matter who won the “democratic” election. Perhaps today’s events will help highlight that distinction.

    Another casualty is (or should be) the interventionist drive that has shaped U.S. “foreign policy” for decades. The nature and composition of future governments in Egypt, Lebanon, or anywhere else outside our borders should be a matter for the inhabitants of those countries to decide. Their political choices are exactly none of our business. We’ve got plenty that needs repair inside this country without involving ourselves in the internal politics of countries and/or cultures that we do not understand and of which we are not a part. Our meddling has generated the blowback that seeds terrorism.

    • Greg

      Good stuff Frank! Thank you.

      • Frank Brady

        Thank YOU, sir.

        • Greg

          Frank Brady,
          “Our meddling has generated the blow-back that seeds terrorism.” Lots of truth to that statement. I am sorry I did not directly comment back to you but I thought your comment was well thought out and strong on its own. I wonder how far along in energy independence America would be if we spent the $trillions we spent on war in the ME would have been spent on technology and oil infrastructure in our own hemisphere? Thank you sir for taking the time to add your thoughts to this site.

  4. Mark

    In June 2009, President Obama stated, “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles-principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” Because the current administration lacks any kind of coherent grand strategy for the Middle East, the organized Muslim Brotherhood likely will fill the power gap. In the coming year, we shall see if President Obama’s words come back to haunt him.

  5. FamilyForce6

    “arguing about “overpopulation” is rather silly, since we are not going to do a goshdarn thing about it in terms of policies or protocols. (My own suggestion to make abortion retroactive has not been greeted with enthusiasm.)”

    It takes an evil mind to write something like this. Sickening. Nothing is more precious than human life; not oil, not the environment, not endangered species. “Population control” is a growing movement and the desired end is always the same- fewer people by any means necessary. Bill Gates and the other One Worlders are ready to usher back the days of Nazi Germany.

    The problem is DISTRIBUTION of resources. Don’t fall for the lie that people are a “virus” or a “plague”; human beings are the crown jewel of Creation.

    • Greg

      FamilyForce6. I honestly do not think Kunstler is evil but just not good at humor. Your point is well made and well taken. Thank you for making it here.

      • Jackson El

        According to some organizations, the whole population outgrowing the food supply theory has never been proven.

        • Greg

          Jackson El,
          But the math for some countries such as Egypt is an obvious disadvantage. Only 3% of that country has farm ground. Even it we do not run out of food it will surly be much more expensive. Thank you for your comment.

    • Art Barnes

      I do not believe in abortion. However, Mr. Kunstler was just trying to put some humor in his article, nothing sinister about it. You won’t need abortion, Hitler’s, or famine to control population in the future, just read that last book of the Bible.

  6. Jim in GA

    One by one, the states “friendly” to the US either have or will fall soon, resulting in the closure of the Suez Canal to interests in Europe and the US. Denying oil to the west will cause economic collapse and Bin Laden will have gotten his wish. Either the US will actually go to war over oil or wither on the vine without it.

    Our only answer is to become self sufficient and be able to defend what we have created for our families.

  7. Luke

    The big problem here is what this current crisis will do to their GDP growth that they have attained over the last 40 years. I’m going to make up some numbers to support what I just said.

    Say Egypt grows an average of 4% over the past 40 years ( I believe that may be very optimistic because a lot of developing countries grow much slower but I put the number that high because Egypt had a thriving tourism industry.) That gives egypt 480% growth. Just plug in 100 as the PV. N=40 and I = 4.
    Solve for FV (http://www.arachnoid.com/lutusp/finance.html). This is the result of compound growth the first year its 100 then the next year its 104 and then the next yeare its 104 *1.04 which equals 108.16 and so on until you got 480 after 40 years.

    Well this may seem like a big number but its not really a big number for a developing nation. According to Datamonitor (research I can obtain through my University) Tourism accounts for over 11% of Egypts economy. Tourism also grew at 17% from 2010. So lets assume Tourism was 1100/10000 of Egypts economy. If the growth rate had been the same tourism would have been around 12.87% of Egypts economy in 2011.

    I’m going to make an assumption here. I’m going to assume Egypt’s tourism industry will fall for the year around 80% ( I think this may be conservative). That would shrink Egypts total GDP by about 10.4%. Thats without factoring in other GDP shrinkage due to failed business.

    That means that just from Tourism alone this crisis may have caused Egypts GDP to go backwards 2.5 years. Take into account these people are already poor and you see an even more blight picture.

    • Greg

      Thank you for the analysis man!!!!

  8. NCdirtdigger

    “And then, one fine day, a large, angry, long-necked bird unfurls a set of elegant black wings and goes honking off into a red sun, and suddenly you are in a new realm where the stock market only goes down… and certain sovereign bond rates soar with that angry bird… and things Too-Big-To-Fail fall on their asses and fail… and everything changes.”

    A well written line.

    I sometimes wonder if perhaps ‘it’ won’t come as one singular, recognizable event, but rather a flock of smaller events, which gather to such a magnitude as to blacken the entire sky.

    • Greg

      Good point to ponder. Thank you!!

  9. Andrea

    The star of David triangles were used by James Clerk Maxwell to depict the star tetrahedron of the 4D hyperdimension. These triangles are in use all the time even in projective geometry. With Maxwell, their function is just no longer secret.

    Yes, go around the obstruction. Use a stockmarket-like system to determine the value of goods and services in a barter. Use a paypal like system to credit accounts. Whatever. Work at this; you (or someone) will be successful. It’s time.


  10. darnold duck

    The suggestion to start a garden or other self sufficiencies is appropriate. Such things take serious practice, and without guidance and luck a sucessful crop is not certain. That said, get started. As for shutting off the sitcom, I turned the tv off 40 some years ago. Those who put themselves outside the nuclear glow of propaganda are a dangerous bunch. I love the dark humor of retroactive abortion. I’ve said the same line, in relation to one of our war monger (death dealer) “prolife” presidents. Resentment of the understanding of population as a time bomb is another way of saying that there is an inabililty to deal with reality and do the numbers. As for food distribution, putting gates and barriers betweend need and supply is another name for business, church, prostitution, elected officials, banks, dope dealers. Ultimately there may be enough food for the moment IF generous distribution were functionally possible, but the recent climate happenings threaten that supply. More so the fact that a meat based diet uses 10 times the grain to grow cows etc. I still fail to understand the point of view that some think they have some sort of God given right to drive a wasteful SUV or have their 10 kids and 100 grandkids and 1000 g.g.k’s, blocking my moped with their highway domination of 1,110 suv’s. The same mind says a prayer over a beef roast, while 10 Egyptians starve. As much as some try, they have not yet made God in their image, it only seems that way in the “intellectual inbreeding” that is the mode in their life, church, schoolsj,and politics. One last thing. I define politics as The art and practice of getting other people to do as you want by persusion if possible, trickery and force if neccessary.

    • Greg

      Thank you Darnold and George.

  11. Mike

    Today, Egypt celebrates a new independence. But tomorrow they awake to a military rule. “Fair elections” are promised, but once the generals taste absolute power, the genie will not go easily back into the bottle.

    As in won’t.

    Seems to be missed by some commenting above, but they’re all prisoners now.

  12. jared

    Leon Panneta should resign. How could someone remain head of the CIA given that they have operatives shooting people in the back? What a disgrace this man has become. It’s obvious his organization has been overtaken with murdering cowardly agents. Perhaps this organization needs to be taken on and have all its employees addresses publicly revealed as they are certainly not working for the American people anymore.

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