Since we were on the topic of doomsday anyway, we thought it might be interesting to take a financial view. We lived through the Financial Crisis of 2008, which some thought was financial Armageddon. But we're all still here, chugging along mostly intact, and awaiting ... what, exactly?
Is there such a thing as financial Armageddon? And if so, what is it? We asked some CNBC personalities, commentators, bloggers, and editors to answer the question: What's your definition of financial Armageddon?
Let's see, it would be a run on some major banks, it would be the closing of some important brokers, and it would be the collapse of the mortgage and auto industries.
Oops! Hmm....let's see, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Citigroup , Lehman, Bear, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and GM . Looks like I already had financial Armageddon. And we lived to tell about it, and profit from it!
Herb Greenberg, Senior Stocks Commentator, CNBC
About five or six years ago I bought the Grizzly Short mutual fund and the iShares Gold Trust as hedges to my IRA. They worked spectacularly well, but rather than selling my entire positions, once the market collapsed (or in the case of gold — skyrocketed), I kept some for a rainy day (or Financial Armageddon!) In the case of an all-out financial apocalypse, I'm convinced I'll be the last guy standing! (Or darn close to it.)
John Carney, Net-Net Blog
When New York City couldn’t find investors for its debt in the 1970s, the best and the brightest all urged a bailout. David Rockefeller, the head of Chase Manhattan Bank (one of the largest holders of NYC debt), warned that if New York City defaulted, the entire financial system would come crashing down. Others said it would mean capitalism had failed.
Well, New York did default.
And the world didn’t end. Even the financial system managed to eke its way through the 1980s. Capitalism—or something like it—kept on keeping on for a couple decades more.
So what’s my definition of financial Armageddon?
It doesn’t exist. Finance is finance—it is not the still place of the turning world.
A day will come when no one in the world has ever heard of Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase. That day won’t be the end of the world—or even the day after the end of the world. People will still help their friends, rely on the kindness of strangers, thwart or be thwarted by their enemies. We’ll still live and love and fight, just like people always have, everywhere.
Financial Armageddon is ... when the economy comes crashing down so spectacularly that it crushes that thin layer of Styrofoam between me and my food chain, leaving me eyeball to eyeball with dinner. Who will blink first? This is the question that keeps me up at night. (It’s also, incidentally, why I don’t like to eat fish with the head on.)
The same rumors that went around about banks shutting and ATMs not working when Lehman Brothers failed wouldn't be just rumors, and you would not be laughing at those people who put in wall safes to keep their cash at home.
Living in California, it seems like I should be in the midst of financial Armageddon already. More than half of us in this state know someone who's either going through foreclosure, or already lost a house. One in three of us has a mortgage underwater. The state can't seem to get a handle on a budget deficit larger than the GDPs of more than a hundred countries. Unemployment is at 12.7 percent.
The utilities still work. Water comes out of the tap. Schools are more crowded and have fewer teachers, tuition at state colleges is higher, but the system hasn't collapsed. The freeways are still free. There are more homeless, but you have to look for them. The fire department and police still show up when you call 911, though it may take them a tad longer.
To me, financial Armageddon will arrive when the cops don't come, when freeway potholes get so big they take out entire lanes, when we have rolling blackouts, when the state is forced to kill kindergarten, and/or when the water takes on an unnatural color. Then I'll know the dire warnings turned out to be true. Until then, like most Californians, I'll sit in the sun, bleach my hair, eat more tofu...and worry.
Albert Bozzo, Senior Editor, CNBC.com
Forget about the financial markets; most of that is "make-believe" money anyway. Everyday commerce is the real worry.
Imagine every ATM unable to spit our hard currency, while every credit and debit card transaction can't be executed. Essentially, there would be no way to pay for anything. Check books, you say? Who carries one anymore? Anyway, try writing a check for gasoline, the hospital emergency room, or a meal. In other words, there's no money. This would quickly lead to runs on banks with lines out the door.
Allen Wastler, Managing Editor, CNBC.com
When the three cases of canned corn I keep in my basement become currency.
Now it's your turn. What's your definition of Financial Armageddon? Weigh in on the boards below.
"Apocalypse 2012" will air on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 9 p.m. and midnight ET on CNBC. The documentary will repeat on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8 p.m.