John Michael Greer, Consuming Democracy:
These two hard facts, the imminence of imperial downfall and the unwillingess of the existing order to accept that imminence, impose certain consequences on the decades ahead of us. Some of the most obvious of those consequences are economic. The American standard of living, as I’ve pointed out more than once, has been buoyed to its current frankly absurd level by a tribute economy that funnels much of the wealth of the world to the the United States. We’ve all heard the self-congratulatory nonsense that insists that this nation’s prosperity is a product of American ingenuity or what have you, but let us please be real; nothing Americans do—nothing, that is, other than maintaining garrisons in more than 140 countries and bombing the bejesus out of nations that get too far out of line—justifies the fact that the five per cent of humanity that can apply for a US passport get to use a quarter of the planet’s energy and a third of its natural resources and industrial product.
As our empire ends, that vast imbalance will go away forever. It really is as simple as that. In the future now breathing down our necks, Americans will have to get used to living, as our not so distant ancestors did, on a much more modest fraction of the world’s wealth—and they’ll have to do it, please remember, at a time when the ongoing depletion of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources, and the ongoing disruption of the environment, are making ever sharper inroads on the total amount of wealth that’s there to distribute in the first place. That means that everything that counts as an ordinary American lifestyle today is going to go away in the decades ahead of us. It also means that my American readers, not to mention everyone else in this country, are going to be very much poorer in the wake of empire than they are today.
That’s a sufficiently important issue that I’ve discussed it here a number of times already, and it bears repeating. All too many of the plans currently in circulation in the green end of US alternative culture covertly assume that we’ll still be able to dispose of wealth on the same scale as we do today. The lifeboat ecovillages beloved by the prepper end of that subculture, just as much as the solar satellites and county-sized algal biodiesel farms that feature in the daydreams of their green cornucopian counterparts, presuppose that such projects can be supplied with the startup capital, the resources, the labor, and all the other requirements they need.