Who knew that Seth Godin was a prophet of doom!
by Stan Faryna
Judy Garland, Over The Rainbow
Recently, Seth Godin wrote about what he calls the forever recession. I’m not a Seth fan and I rarely read Seth’s glibulations (a combination of tribulation and glib), but a friend suggested that I might find this particular post of interest as I further contemplate social media, social search, social business, social games, the social web, online communities, and the future. If any of these subjects interest you, I encourage you to consider my reflections below on Seth Godin’s end times prophecy.
Seth Godin distinguishes the forever recession from cyclical recession. Godin, of course, doesn’t make a good effort to explain a cyclical recession. He rarely explains things, in fact, and that contributes my own reluctance to get excited about Seth. Seth likes to limit his liability and risks, so he never says what he means. OR Seth Godin never has anything important to say.
You decide for yourself.
I may understand the concepts at hand, so I’ll try to explain how I imagine it. For your information, I am not an economist. And feel free to correct my errors on economics in the comments.
Let’s start with a definition of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP represents the market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given period.
A recession is a period during which the economy is slowing down or contracting. When the GDP grows at a rate below the normal rate of growth, we have a slow down. In other words, what was produced this year is less than what is produced during normal times – an average of let’s say five years. Contraction means that an economy, in fact, is producing less goods and services than the previous year. When the GDP declines by more than 10 percent, it’s a depression just like the Great Depression of the 1930s. If I understand the global economic situation correctly, we are now in our second year of a super Depression.
So far, Governments have been able to soften the impact of the present super Depression so that the middle class is not directly effected by it as they were hit in the 1930s. The stories of present hardships and despair are also de-emphasized by the mainstream media. Not simply because elites are afraid of what people might do to them! But because general confidence floats the economy. Greater fears and inconfidence fueled by true stories of desperation and despair would result in the bottom falling out faster and deeper.
According to the economic commentators, recessions rise and ebb like the tide across time. These are called cyclical recessions. It is suggested that these cycles reflect two interrelated influences upon the economy. The first is confidence. Confidence in the opportunity to make more and more wealth rises to a point of irrational exhuberance and then falls into a temporary doubt and skepticism before confidence begins to build again. The second is debt. Debt rises to a point of irrational risk in the pursuit of capitalizing on riskier opportunities and then creditors constrain or reduce credit until they are comfortable again with the situation.
What Seth Godin calls the forever recession is a cute expression for what is known as a structural recession in economic theory. A structural recession happens when a game-changer disrupts the normal components of supply and demand. Emerging markets outcompeting the top ten economies on price, cost, and quality is a game changer. It began noticeably with the fall of communism and the iron curtain. But the Asian dragon eclipsed even that. Industrial production is owned by those who can produce at the lowest cost. And we are all guilty for that. Because we want more for less. It’s a rational choice – in fact.
I’m particularly bothered by Godin’s glossing over the impact of this disruption. Because it’s going to get worse. If the U.S. Census reports that one out of six Americans is now living below the normal US poverty level, it is not far fetched to imagine that four out of six Americans will be living in poverty (as poverty is defined today) within ten years. Of course, the normal definition of poverty will be redefined lower to suit political expedience and happy talk. It will be even worse for Europe. Or maybe not -Europeans do not pride themselves on economic class as do Americans.
But for most of those who are in poverty now, their despair will know no bottom. My heart trembles in fear, compassion, and empathy for them.
The survivors will climb over the writhing, dying bodies of their own family, friends, and neighbors to grasp a poor semblance of success and survival (suckville) by virtue of what Seth Godin calls the revolution of connection. Godin pretends a certain naiveté (perhaps as a literary device?) and suggests that hundreds of millions will do ok. Somehow. He is ambiguous about his fantasized engine of hope. But Godin does seem to hint at online marketing. Do you mean, spam, Seth?
I would like to point out even if 100 million people were spamming each other 24-7 just to be ok that means that roughly 92 percent of the world population is going to be doing NOT OK. Of course, that’s not going to work out and then you get to super-political elites (IMF, World Bank, and the UN) debating the merits of aggressive and passive methods for massive population reduction. I’d also like to mention that English is not the dominant language of the world – so your opportunity as an English-speaking and writing native to be an effective online spammer would be limited to the spam-saturated, English-speaking market.
Seth forgot to mention that you need to acquire fluency in two to three additional languages. Yesterday.
I’m not contradicting the problematic that Godin presents. Nor am I opposed to the revolution of connection. In fact, I am all for it. In my humble opinion, results will vary. Disappointment, of course, will be prominent. On the other hand, Seth’s emphasis on “forever” in his forever recession is too much doom and gloom for me.
The casual collective that represents today’s online communities is not likely to fuel the revolution that Seth Godin imagines is taking shape. Casual collectives, for example, can not even be compared to the local militias that served poorly (but bravely) in the American Revolution. The allusion has stretch marks – of that, I am aware. But if we are in the birthpangs of a brave new world As Godin suggests, online communities must evolve beyond the potential road kill that they most resemble today.
In other words, they must be willful. They must have impact. They must become intelligent and coherent.
Please join me in brainstorming about new vision for online communities here.
I enthusiastically welcome your humble and/or creative contribution to creating our own brave, new future of we!
30 September 2011
P.S. Your $5 can make a difference. If you can get 10 of your friends to give $5 too, you will make an even bigger difference. Please help Nisha to help others.
Faryna Podcasts recently produced by Adrian Klein:
1. Why do I blog: Faryna Podcast EP1
2. If Tomorrow Was Your Last Day: Faryna Podcast EP2
3. Money Can’t Buy Happiness: Faryna Podcast EP3
4. The First Duty of Love is to Listen: Faryna Podcast EP4
5. Are You Ready for Love? Faryna Podcast EP5
6. Reading The Desiderata. Faryna Podcast EP6
7. What is Love? Faryna Podcast EP7
8. Confessions of a Freak-Geek-Misfit. Faryna Podcast EP8
9. Do you love strongly? Faryna Podcast EP9
10. Empty-handed, Less Traveled Roads. Faryna Podcast EP10
11. The Economics of Friendship. Faryna Podcast EP11
12. Do Not Be Afraid. Faryna Podcast EP12