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At The Breaking Point: Soon Our Stressed System “Will Finally Unravel”

Charles Hugh Smith
February 11th, 2016
Of Two Minds
Comments (89)


This article was written by by Charles Hugh Smith and originally published on his Of Two Minds blog.

Editor’s Comment: No one knows when the next collapse will initiate, but all the factors are there. Anyone who does know the timing isn’t going to be talking. Nevertheless, it seems clear that it is only a matter of time. And it won’t be just economic; the political system is also collapsing. But what form will replace it?

As that point approaches, the repeated shocks to the system have broken it down – and true recovery becomes no longer possible, and each adjustment comes with its own form of tyranny. What is sad is that the system is poised for rupture, and those that caused it are waiting to provide their brand of “solution” in the aftermath – that is, unless we awaken and change things to a sensible system.

How Systems Break: First They Slow Down

by Charles Hugh Smith

Alternatively, we can cling to a state of denial, and the dominant system will be replaced by archetypal systems that are not necessarily positive.

Understanding our current socio-economy as a system of sub-systems enables us to project how and when unsustainable sub-systems will finally unravel.

The reality that cannot be spoken within the conventional media is that all the primary financial systems we believe are permanent and indestructible are actually on borrowed time.

One way to assess this decline of resilience is to look at how long it takes systems to recover when they are stressed, and to what degree they bounce back to previous levels.

A compelling article on this topic was recently published by The AtlanticNature’s Warning Signal: Complex systems like ecological food webs, the brain, and the climate all give off a characteristic signal when disaster is around the corner.

“The signal, a phenomenon called “critical slowing down,” is a lengthening of the time that a system takes to recover from small disturbances, such as a disease that reduces the minnow population, in the vicinity of a critical transition. It occurs because a system’s internal stabilizing forces—whatever they might be—become weaker near the point at which they suddenly propel the system toward a different state.”

Recent email exchanges with correspondent Bart D. (Australia) clued me into the Darwinian structure of this critical slowing down and loss of snapback (what we might characterize as a loss of resilience).

Beneath the surface dominance of one system are many other systems that are suppressed by the dominant system.

As the dominant system weakens / destabilizes / slows down, these largely invisible systems compete to occupy more of the ecosystem.

An example in the financial realm is barter: in a system dominated by central bank/state issued money and digital transactions, barter still exists but on a very modest scale.

When central bank/state money loses its value and utility (due to hyper-inflation, etc.), then barter expands rapidly to fill the vacuum left by the demise of the dominant system.

The ecosystem example illustrates how critical transitions occur: as the dominant system loses resiliency and slows down, other systems fill the ecosystem spaces that are opened up by the weakness of the dominant arrangement. At some point, the balance or equilibrium of the ecosystem experiences a phase transition and a new balance of other dynamics become dominant.

In human systems, this process can be at least partially conscious: we can see the dominant paradigm weakening, and start developing other systems that can compete for the resulting openings in the financial/social ecosystem.

Alternatively, we can cling to a state of denial, and the dominant system will be replaced by archetypal systems that are not necessarily positive. I opt for conscious development of alternatives that can compete transparently for dominance as the status quo dissolves and is replaced by more resilient, sustainable systems.

This is the core purpose of my new book A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All.

President Trump is Breaking Down the Neck of the Federal Reserve!

He wants zero rates and QE4!

You must prepare for the financial reset

We are running out of time

Download the Ultimate Reset Guide Now!

Author: Charles Hugh Smith
Date: February 11th, 2016
Website: http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2016/02/how-systems-break-first-they-slow-down.html

Copyright Information: This content has been contributed to SHTFplan by a third-party or has been republished with permission from the author. Please contact the author directly for republishing information.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is the real story.

    • Jacknife says:

      I’m sure glad this guy wrote this article. I never had any idea. Bawawahahaha

    • Acid Etch says:


      Remember when Hugo Chavez said Amerikkka should follow Venezuela down the road to socialism?

      Venezuela is on the brink of total economic collapse.

      I don’t see this being covered much.

      It’s going to be another useful case study.

    • Acid Etch says:


      “I would not say that wage growth is a litmus test for monetary policy.”

      “Job creation has perhaps been more heavily skewed toward sectors that have lower pay.”

      “Global financial and economic developments impinge on the outlook. I think it’s premature at this point to decide exactly what the consequences of those developments will be, and whether they will persist.”

      “We have been quite surprised by movements in oil prices.”

      “While Fed officials anticipated the dollar to zoom past other currencies as the U.S. economy heated up, its recent strengthening “is not something that we’ve anticipated.”

      “We had previously considered (negative interest rates) and decided that they would not work well, but in light of the recent experience of European countries, we’re taking a look at them again because we would want to be prepared in the event that we would need to add accommodations.”


      Mainstream economists have never been right about anything!!!!!!!!


      I’ll tell you what’s going on.

      Amerikkka is too broke to buy cheap plastic shit from China. Therefore the Chinese manufacturing companies aren’t getting money and going bankrupt. Therefore the Chinese stock market is tanking and spreading contagion to Europe and Japan. Since the Chinese stock market is tanking and the demand isn’t there, Chinese companies don’t have any venture capital, so they aren’t importing any raw materials. Concurrently, the House of Saud is flooding the markets with oil to corner the Iran/Russia blok. So the global demand for oil and raw materials has tanked. Countries are devaluing their currencies like anchors trying to get their exports off the ground.







    • Acid Etch says:

      Single moms on welfare cost this country $100 billion a year.

      Welfare should be abolished completely.

      If women are attracted to scumbags, let their babies starve to death on the streets.

      Fuck ’em.

    • Acid Etch says:


      Romans visited America 1000 years before Colombus?

    • Acid Etch says:

      Christie dropped out.

      That should leave a ton of room for the other candidates.


  2. 2isone says:

    Still watching the Capitol Hill Q&A live. The North Dakota rep made a very important point talking about the manipulation of currencies affecting her state which is a commodity driven economy. Tickers at the bottom of the screen, all RED.

  3. buggymak110 says:

    Well better finalize your preps….. it’s coming and it doesn’t look very good !!!!!

  4. It's Over says:

    I run/manage my life as if I am a nation.

    I consider my yearly income my GDP.

    Fossil fuel consumption, food consumption, infrastructure, transportation, etc.

    I create yearly budgets with expenditures broken down by using a tentative percentages of what I anticipate my yearly GDP will be. I do not deficit spend.

    My point is this, since I do not have a printing press like the feds utilize, I am able to easily calculate what my breaking point is to the penny if I deficit spent like the federal government does.

    For 15 years I’ve been saying this massive debt is unsustainable, and we very well may have just made the final turning point to massive deflation.

    My hope is the federal reserve get’s out of the way and they let it happen. If they were to do that, there is a very slim possibility the US could retain the dollar as the world reserve currency. It’s time for major pain to be felt, and restructuring and paying down these debts. We are 50+ years overdue for having an honestly balanced federal budget.

    The US socialist federal programs need to be restructured, and then eliminated. Social security, welfare, unemployment etc.

    If these bankers decide to continue propping up the debt and print money, we can rest assured massive inflation will be the result followed by a complete collapse of the West’s fiat currency debt scams. The US dollar will then go the way of the sterling, and the US will sink from being a superpower to a regional power at best.

    • Kulafarmer says:

      Only place i disagree is on SS,,
      I paid into that system,
      I damn well better get that few hundred thou out of it,,,

      • rellik says:

        Hey Kula,
        I paid in also,
        Using their actuary tables I should be able to
        get $507,564 to age 85.
        My wife should get $161,100 to age 85.
        She paid in also. This is based on
        age 62 start.

        The SS system is supposed to be broke about ten
        years before we get to age 85. It will
        be interesting.
        Especially since I plan to live to 120yrs
        of age.

        • apache54 says:

          FUNNY! i get my first check next month??? well i hope so YES me and the wfe paid our fair share in and i HOPE we get to collect lots of it back! BUT the way things are going when the civil war starts we will have to see !

  5. Observer says:

    A lot of the indicators are at record lows and the market hasn’t really started to go down yet. Remember that the Fed didn’t fix anything, they just kicked the can down the road. Now the problem is bigger than last time and the Fed has less ammo. Some would say the Fed has no ammo left. If the derivatives implode, it’s all over. And I mean really over. No pensions or social security. Almost no jobs. There will be no warning. No time to go to the store, etc.

    • KY Mom says:

      “Because so much is riding on what so few decide, once the faith in the Central Banks fail, the chances of us getting out of this diminish every second…”

      Some stats about the US government:
      U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
      Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
      New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
      National debt: $18,990,000,000,000
      Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000

      Now, remove 8 zeroes and pretend it’s a household budget:
      Annual family income: $21,700
      Money the family spent: $38,200
      New debt on the credit card: $18,990
      Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
      Total budget cuts: $385!!!!!

      The Newest Monetary Contagion
      “As more central banks resort to negative interest rates, will economic conditions take a turn for the worse?”

      • 2isone says:

        Thanks Mom- that is a very telling analogy.

      • passinwiththewind says:

        If one is anchored by the unbreakable rope/bond/covenant that binds them in Heaven, then none of the figures unraveling, present in today’s political/economic environment, even matter, therefore; the words, “chances of us getting out of this diminish every second” has no bearing on one’s life.

        As our Heavenly Father cares for the lowly sparrow, even so much more will/does, he care for His own, that have come under His protections …..”humbly”.

        Not one sparrow falls that He does not know about, and He even knows the number of hairs (in my case…sprigs) on the heads of His children.

        I don’t worry about the small stuff any longer, nor continually drool over the fear porn. We prep as best as we can and leave the big/worrisome stuff, up to our Creator. He blesses us more than we even deserve, and we appreciate it daily.

        When the prepping priorities are exchanged for banter over things we have no control, ie: Wall Street, PM numbers/highs/lows, then the correct perspective starts to wain.

        When in doubt, look up, for the only truth that matters is soon in journey.


      • Hold on, the numbers don’t look right.

        Where are you getting the $142,710? If the new debt is 1,650,000,000,000, shouldn’t that be the “new debt on credit card” instead of $18,990? The $18,990 should really be the outstanding balance of $189,900, instead of the $142,710, right? Correct me if I’m wrong, because I really like this example and want to share it, but not if it is wrong. Should it not be:

        Annual family income: $21,700
        Money the family spent: $38,200
        New debt on the credit card: $16,500
        Outstanding balance on the credit card: $189,900
        Total budget cuts: $385

      • Kulafarmer says:

        It just boggles the mind,
        I have been cutting back and cutting back and cut, well you get the idea,,,
        Makes paying the monthlys tough, but i still make it barely,
        But heres the thing, i dont have credit cards, and i really dont owe anything,,,
        They call it living within your means,
        Im not going to work to have to turn around and give 1/3 or more to TPTB,,, they can blow me,,,

      • Jacknife says:

        Great analogy. We live within our means and save what we can. I don’t know what the hell is so hard about that. If I’m livin that way, I’m doing my part, why the hell should I have to pay for a bunch of leeches who don’t/won’t?

      • I figured out the problem, they were using the budget from 2011 referenced in an National Review article, but substituting our current budget numbers. However, not all the amounts were changed, thus my confusion. The original chart from 2011:

        Why S&P Downgraded the US:
        U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
        Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
        New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
        National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
        Recent [April] budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000

        Let’s remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget: Annual family income: $21,700
        Money the family spent: $38,200
        New debt on the credit card: $16,500
        Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
        Budget cuts: $385

        • KY Mom says:

          Redoubt Rene,

          Thanks for the update on the budget numbers.

          They were from the article.

          When the zeros are removed and the numbers presented as a household budget, it makes the budget “mess” very easy to grasp.

  6. GMAFB says:

    Please hurry

    Same shit, new day…

  7. watching and waiting says:

    Reason why smart people prepare.

  8. Jim in Va. says:

    Position yourself now before it hits. Be able to barter, the dollar might only be good for toilet paper.

    • Marie says:

      Hey, did you know that you can use the pages of a telephone book for toilet paper?! Yep! Tear out one page and crush it in your hands and keep crushing it and it will get real soft and you can use for toilet paper in a pinch! Save all those old telephone books now! Get more from your friends too!

  9. lena says:

    Welcome to the party pal, it’s been unraveling for a while now; it’s just picking up speed as more and more figure it out.

    I predict that by year’s end, January will have been considered a calm financial market and it was the worst month in years.

  10. Archivist says:

    The Dow is now just 200 points above the 12-month low. It may pass it tomorrow.

  11. Tammi says:

    Wow Ky mom does that ever put it into a perspective that’s crystal clear. And really that is about what the average American family has done actually! Man we are so in for scary/hard times.

  12. Archivist says:

    The good news is that gas keeps going down. I just paid $1.54 per gallon.

  13. 2isone says:

    Cramer looks like he’s on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

  14. Sgt. Dale says:

    As I’m writing this the market is down 377 points. Gas in our area is around 1.35 a gallon. Milk is around 2.00 a gallon. 500 22Lr. around 30.00. I see silver and gold is up.

    So what are you invested in? If you are a good Prepper you are in good shape. If not. Sucks to be you! As you can see I’m tired of telling preaching and asking people to prep.

    With all this good news we are getting I hope we make it to the spring so I can get my garden in.


  15. Philosopher says:

    I am not a big fan of this guy. I did buy, and read, his book, “Survival +” and I read the book twice. Mostly because the author’s writing style sucks because it is too pedantic and he makes up his own acronyms. Some of the ideas were okay and some were the usual leftist drivel. Consider the source: this clown lives in Berkley, California.

    • Acid Etch says:

      Yes, I have read much of Aristotle, Socrates, Plato.

      Have you ever read Xenophon? Interesting body of work.

      Have you ever read “The Killer Inside Me”?

      Have you ever read J.G. Ballard?

      “Heart of Darkness” should be a field manual, not a term paper assignment.

  16. Robin Sage says:

    hey look

    huge surprise?

    ht tps://www.yahoo.com/news/video/state-trooper-suspended-lying-traffic-154017097.html

  17. 2isone says:

    Just put in an order for 18 #10s with my supplier in Oregon, and antibiotics with one of the sponsors here. I have used the cephalexin successfully (for my fish of course;) Use reponsibly… always full course… recognizable infection. Don’t throw away any meds- even if you don’t use them. Meds are going to be one of the first unavailabe items after a crash.

    • mallardhen says:

      Your statement about meds being unavailable after a crash other then OTC stuff what do you do if you are on stuff for BP or your heart and without it you will not be able to live. I have tried to save every pill I can scratch up for my DH’s BP issue and no matter how hard I try if I can scare up 3 or 4 extra pills a month it’s a lot. Anyone have an idea.

      • 2isone says:

        You will have to barter for it. Without being ghoulish… I have relatives who will pass away soon of natural causes and I’ve considered harvesting unused meds for barter. Among those meds are BP medicines. If I don’t go in and clear them out, they will be flushed or stolen by the cleaning crews.

        All of this is illegal in the present time. Getting caught with someone else’s medications is a bad thing! It is best to keep any meds in bottles with the appropriate NAME of the patient on them. That means, don’t throw out YOUR (or spouse’s) empty pill bottles!!! You should not be in possession of any medications that are prescribed to someone else, even if they have passed away. But, no one can prove that the meds in your bottle are not your own if they match the scrip (ciproflaxin=ciproflaxin) and the bottle has your name on it. This obviously, is for a future time when medical care is inaccessible, and anyone who preps in this manner will want to educate themselves thoroughly on any dosages, courses and true expiration dates on the meds they need.

      • got out then says:

        L-Arginine is a great supplement for high BP and overall heart health. its OTC and widely available now. I use it to control my BP.

    • Marie says:

      Yeah and the ptb are always saying on the radio to clean out the medicine cabinet and the stupid sheep do it. Yeah best to save it all. I keep mine in the fridge in the bottom crisper tray.

  18. KY Mom says:

    Prepper tip…

    Off Grid worming

    FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) works very well as a de-wormer in humans, cats and dogs. Whenever administering, always mix the D.E. in food with moisture.

    Horse owners I know believe Diatomaceous earth may be dangerous to horses and other livestock if they inhale the dust.

    So, they use other natural methods (such as the recipe below) with their livestock – horses, cows and goats.
    *Also, when applying D.E. in the garden, use a face mask – so you don’t breathe in the dust.

    Note: Mixing a teaspoon of D.E. in a bowl of oatmeal a couple times a week can help people lower their cholesterol too.

    Off-Grid Worming Recipe for Horses
    (Most of these items you can grow yourself.)
    Use a mixture of…
    40% sunflower and pumpkin seeds
    30% tobacco leaves (or loose pipe tobacco from the store)
    the rest parsley flakes and garlic.

    Fill up a gallon ice cream bucket and you can worm over 20 horses with it.

    According to research, intestinal worms release from the stomach and intestinal lining during the full moon to breed. The rough texture of the mixture scrapes the worms away and right out of the horses.

    It is much cheaper than conventional worming. Also, the horse manure (garden fertilizer) is NOT contaminated by the chemicals in the tube wormer. Horse manure tainted with worming medication will kill the good worms in the soil once the manure is on the ground.

    Ivermectin products in the manure will continue to kill beneficial stuff in your soil for 28 days post worming. Daily feed through wormer like strongid will eventually sterilize your whole place. Panacure or safeguard does the least damage to your soil.

  19. Satori says:

    How to survive a global disaster: a handy guide

    h ttp://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/10/how-to-survive-a-global-disaster-handy-guide

  20. Wise Woman says:

    If you have never heard of Cloward and Piven, please do a search on them. This article illustrates what Cloward and Piven advocated, that is, to overload an unwanted system to the point of collapse in order to institute a different one. What is distressing is that we as a society have been sitting in our insulated, individual worlds, not truly seeing the signs or, if seeing them, shrugging them off. After all, as long as the lights still come on, who cares how dark it gets outside, right? But this is not your average cloud cover, major storm, or nightfall. This is the Change we voted in two administrations ago…

  21. rabbitone says:

    So using KY Moms brilliant analysis I reworked her chart in using the debt clock and Kotlikoff testimony. I am sure there are some better analogies than what I have above I would love to see them.

    America’s finance put into perspective from the debt Clock (with trillion dollar numbers having 8 zeros removed)
    Annual family income (Median Income Now): $29,147
    Money the family spent (U.S. Federal Spending): $37,701
    New debt on the credit card (U.S. Federal Budget Deficit): $4,463
    Outstanding balance on the credit card (National Debt): $190,146
    Total of Mortgage and Credit Card Debt (U.S.Total Debt) $648,642


    Then in add future entitlements. Laurence Kotlikoff’s a Professor of Economics at Boston University gave testimony before the U.S. senate budget committee on Feburary 25, 2015 and said America’s broke because of the fiscal gap created by entitlements.


    So entitlement numbers are:
    Direct Unfunded Liabilities (Debt Clock) $1,001,202
    Future Entitlement Debt Fiscal Gap (Kotlikoff) $2,100,000

    This perspective says it all on why we prep. With the average family have a median income of $29K paying off U.S. Total Debt of $648K is impossible in a reasonable time period. Likewise there is no way for government to fund the fiscal gap $2,100K with any reasonable tax plan.

    Then how is it possible we are still afloat as a nation? The answer is we are borrowing against our world reserve currency credit or dollar hegemony. A typical example is the petrodollar which is being destroyed by the Russians, Gulf Arabs and Chinese banking.