I recently finished your book using your Christmas discount. Great read by the way! I've been following your blog since the beginning and so far you are spot on regarding the changes a society faces during an economic collapse. My country (Greece) is in slow mode collapse and funny thing is most people don't understand what's going on and where things are really going (debt restructuring/default). I guess ignorance is bliss right?
Anyway, one of the positive aspects of this economic annihilation for the middle class is a growing wave of civil disobedience taking place in the mindset of the common folk and also on the streets. The most successful act of this type is the ''I will not pay'' movement for the toll highway fees which have increased at least 300% in the last few years. According to estimates published by the movement and the government, at least 20% of the drivers refuse to pay the toll, simply remove the barricades by hand and drive on. This of course has panicked the companies operating and profiting from this but also the government which fears a coming wave of general refusal to pay for anything deemed too expensive (which is practically everything in Greece - food, power, taxes, more taxes etc.)
My question to you is: Has a similar movement manifested in Argentina after the collapse? If so, what have been the results?
Thanks in advance for your time,
K.C. from Athens, Greece
Hi K.C., hope you find my book useful. In spite of the cultural differences, people (specially westerners ) are surprisingly similar, and these latest economic meltdowns seem out of a textbook.
Its surprising, but people can go into denial in ways that you cant believe. I remember a neighbor being interviewed once, she was being asked about the crime problem in her neighborhood, she said “no, we don’t have a serious problem, just the typical crime found everywhere in the world these days”. Yet on the background you could see her neighbor, now a corpse lying on the sidewalk covered with a blanket. Denial is a powerful defense mechanism, it’s the way people manage not to go nuts. Expect a lot of it in the coming years.
Indeed, we have lots of civil disobedience here. Most commonly, people jump through the metal booths or skip paying when using trains.
The greatest problem we’ve had recently was the increase of price of power and natural gas. Some people have refused to pay and for a while you could do that because the increase was of %400 to %800 percent in some cases, and was considered unconstitutional. After a few months people still had to pay and what a lot of people did was have electricians tamper their power meters so as to lie about how much energy they where using.
Taxes are so outrageous, it’s a national sport to avoid them. I can tell you for sure, most medium and small business simply wouldn’t be able to stay open if they paid all the taxes they are supposed to. The government already expects you to do this, so they rise them even more to compensate. The result? A country that operates on the border line of illegality, usually on the illegal side. Not good, not serious, and foreign investors are turned away from this sort of complications.
At a larger scale, we have what I wrote about recently, people just taking over a lot of land (private or public) and quickly building their homes there with brick and mortar (just a single room, but that’s a structure none the less) or demanding payment or a home somewhere else in exchange for leaving the squattered property. During 2001 and 2002 we saw this in the form of “give up the food or we loot”. Supermarket managers preferred to give up some food bags to each looter and spare the place from getting completely trashed.
As you see, it gets complicated fast.
Some civil disobedience sure is healthy, specially when the taxes are abusive. But if the problem isn’t brought to a legal context, that paths leads to loss of respect for the law and ultimately systematic corruption.
I stop paying abusive taxes, the guy next to me stops paying taxes HE considers abusive, soon enough you have someone stealing a public bank owned CIT truck claiming he’s just trying to get his stolen 401(K) back.
In my opinion, the healthiest path if you want to make a difference is activism ( support what you believe in, go to rallies ) and political involvement. I know, politics suck, but that’s a preconception we have to overcome. There’s no other peaceful way of changing things. You can at least support candidates than you feel represent your ideals the best.
We've had moderate success when civil disobedience was done, but as I said before, it can be complicated in the long run.
K.C. take care buddy, try following some of the advice in my book, it will serve you well in the years to come.