Surviving A Global Depression – The Apocalyptic High Severity Scenario
That brings us to the High Severity scenario. I stated that this was the apocalyptic option and truly it is. At this level of worldwide impact, all bets are off.
Stock markets would effectively cease to operate and this would have a disastrous effect on the world economy. With investments wiped out, cash could take a predominant position, but the unwise knee-jerk reactions of some politicians could cause Weimar Republic-style hyperinflation, wiping out its value and sparking a barter economy. Even precious metals could suffer as people would find little practical use for gold. Bonds would be useless paper. Bonds are built on trust in the future and this would be a very rare commodity in a depression economy. Global panic would delay the return to a stable bond market for at least a full generation.
Social upheaval is certain to follow governments’ inability to provide economic security to a vast majority of their populations. A mass hysteria could set in, with people willing to do literally anything to secure food and supplies. A survival-at-all-costs mentality could become pervasive. Police and military would be swamped by this unrest, as well as their own internal casualties due to clashes with a very violent and desperate citizenry.
There are no real hedges in this eventuality, whether financial or social, and the survivalist’s credo that the only things of real value are “food, water and ammunition” could actually come to pass.
There is no point analyzing this scenario sector by sector. After the global depression renders the entire population of the developed world into paupers, civilization will not return to the Stone Age, but it might be pretty close. We can rest assured that there will be a very different world on the other side of a depression this pervasive.
Politics will be shunned as it offered no hope when humanity needed it most. The prospect of basing a world economy on a bubble of credit and ever-higher, but essentially irrational, expectations will never return. Survival issues will be of great importance in Western nations that previously concerned themselves with more esoteric and abstract pursuits. The breakdown of law and order will see some communities band together and operate their own vigilante, Wild West justice. Atrocities now limited to warring tribes in Central Africa will become commonplace.
The elimination of the financial system may spur a new Golden Age or we may just descend into savagery. No one can know. Does humanity have within it the ability to build a new, better, fairer and truly utopian system on the ashes of the deceased world, or will we return to a Dark Age feudalism where we band together only for self-preservation from the savages outside the walls? Western civilization has become dependent on technology and its trappings. Whether this dependence can be shed for a return to self-reliance and manual labor is questionable. This depression will strike at the core of our civilization, in the heart of its crowded cities most of us now reside. One can only hope that in this scenario, humanity will distinguish itself as the noble animal we can be.