If you spend enough time surfing the Web, you might think Nouriel Roubini, the pessimistic economist profiled in the April issue of Condé Nast Portfolio, is taking a walk on the sunny side of the street. There are bloggers who have been forecasting much worse for several years.
While bankers were still ordering $1,000 bottles of wine in trendy Manhattan restaurants, these internet Sybils of the impending economic apocalypse were already prophesizing food shortages and endless gas lines.
Some are on the right side of the political spectrum, others on the far left, but they all share one thing—traffic on their sites has increased exponentially since Wall Street began to implode last fall.
We caught up with a few of the more provocative doommongers to see what they think is coming next. Hint: Before reading further, you may want to uncork your most expensive bottle of wine. You’ll need it.
James Howard Kunstler
Novelist and journalist James Howard Kunstler is the leading popular voice of peak oil, the theory that says we have gone through more than half the world’s supply of this much-needed resource. Kunstler’s regular Monday morning posts foretell a world beset by oil shortages, which he believes will lead to everything from financial shenanigans (sound familiar?) to food riots, not to mention attacks on the wealthy, abandoned suburban housing developments and a forced return to small-town living.
Prediction: High potential for civil unrest and violence. “It won’t be good for your health to be a conspicuous consumer.”
The Trends Research Institute
Not a blogger per se, trends researcher Gerald Celente publishes his predictions for the future in a quarterly journal. In December 2007, he called “The Panic of '08,” featuring “failing banks, busted brokerages, toppled corporate giants, bankrupt cities, states in default.... When the giant firms fall, they’ll crush the man on the street.” The journal is by paid subscription only, but Celente makes frequent radio appearances, which his many fans record and post online.
Prediction: The current economic crisis will be worse than the Great Depression, with a rise in alternative living arrangements. He’s thinking self-storage units. “People are going to self-store themselves.” FYI, Roubini’s offices just happen to be located in the same building as a Manhattan Mini Storage facility. Coincidence? You decide.
Speaking Truth to Power
The site run by Carolyn Baker, an adjunct professor of history in Vermont, is structured her site like an Utne Reader of global collapse lit, with links to sites ranging from the very mainstream Marketwatch.com to some of the bloggers on our list. Her goal is to connect the dots between peak oil, global climate change, financial collapse and other ongoing trends and debates. The common thread: Our way of life cannot be sustained. And it will all end badly.
Prediction: “It’s not going to be like falling off a cliff but a slow descent with tipping points. There are going to be different kinds of Katrinas, economic crises, natural disasters, and nuclear exchanges—but I really hope I am wrong about that.”
Xenakis, a computer consultant, analyzes previous and current generations in American history to predict catastrophe to come. He believes the exit of the Greatest Generation from the workforce in the 1990s set the stage for disaster as Baby Boomers, who are uncomfortable with authority, fell prey to the amoral Gen Xer’s right behind them. The two groups combined to bring us the current financial crisis as the Baby Boomers want money badly enough not to ask many questions about its provenance, while the equally greedy Gen Xer’s are nihilistic enough to do what it takes to get it.
Prediction: The misbegotten combination of the Boomers and the Gen Xers will continue to cause trouble for several more decades, leading to complete financial collapse and war before Xers are able to turn things around in their old age. Says Xenakis, “I don’t expect to live through it.”
Janszen, an investor and analyst, first started Itulip at the height of the tech bubble. The tulip is, of course, a reference to the infamous Dutch tulip bubble of the 17th century. He retired the site when the Internet bubble burst, only to return in 2006, when he saw a housing bubble developing. Janszen predicted it would end badly, with a mass deflation leading to a multi-year economic crash. Parts of the site—including its many reader forums—are subscription only.
More From CNBC:
- Doom for the Dollar? (Video)
- Low Prices Spark Fear of Future Oil Shock
Prediction: The United States will, over time, right itself, but will first have to survive a period where one million folks will be added to the unemployment rolls every month by the end of 2009.
Irvine Housing Blog
Many bloggers are writing about the housing bust but perhaps Larry Roberts, a.k.a. IrvineRenter, has found the best way to demonstrate how everyone from the lowliest buyer to the highest paid financier was implicated in the bubble. Almost daily, he posts a house for sale in Irvine, California, taking readers on a journey through the home’s recent financial history. He reveals the price the home was originally purchased for, how much money was taken out of the home during various re-financings, and what the potential loss to the bank is if the house sale goes thru. Needless to say, sardonic comments abound.
Prediction: Roberts is the cockeyed optimist of our bunch. He plans to change his handle to IrvineHomeowner in 2011, when he believes the housing market will bottom out.