PANIC, PREPARATION AND OUR GOVERNMENT 

People tend to be in awe of computers and the skill of people who can make them sing. They have impressed us, so we trust them. The notion that computers will crash and cause panic and social unrest is beyond the comprehension of most people.  There was a world without computers a very short time ago and many people remember that we got along just fine without them. So naturally they think we can get along just fine without them again.  It is no longer that simple.  We can't go back that easily or quickly enough considering the short time that remains. 

Many experts have painted various Y2K scenarios.  In general the worst case scenarios are those that will  result if people "just don't get it," and thus do not prepare.  The bright side (if there is any) is that if enough finally do "get it," in time, the severity could be lessened.  The worst case Y2k scenarios will not be caused by computer malfunctions alone. It will be the sum total of computer glitches AND social upheaval from emotional reactions of the unprepared.  It will be the unprepared who cause the panic and chaos once they finally discover the reality of Y2k after it is too late to prepare.  Unfortunately most people still "don't get it" - it's a fact - and it's a pity. 

Society is presently in the procrastination mode.   The next mode is panic. The familiar pre-hurricane buying spree is the best example, although probably an inadequate one - it will probably be much worse than that. 

Your main questions have now become: "What will I do between now and the inevitable panic? Will I reallocate my budget early or late?  Will I do survival preparation now or merely wish I had, after it is too late?" 

Some are saying the government is walking the high-wire and that if they raised an alarm, it might create a panic, and if they didn't, Y2 will not be fixed.  I don't really buy the part about raising the early alarm causing a panic.   If the potential dangers of Y2K were honestly announced beforehand, giving time for people to prepare, it would prevent panic.   Sen. Robert Bennett says: "There is no question that there could be panic as some people over react to the challenges. We must make sure that the information on Y2K is accurate and timely, to avoid panic.  Even if the information is bad, if it is accurate, people can make wise contingency plans. This is a massive public education challenge."  These are good words, but maybe a little bit too late - we have neither received Y2K information that is accurate or timely - panic has not been avoided.  It will come like the plague. 

Panic is like pressure in the boiler.  If the pressure relief valve (early announcement) functioned, the pressure (panic) level would not grow very high and the situation would be nicely under control.  However, bypassing the relief valve function causes the pressure to build and build - - -till there is a giant destructive explosion (PANIC).  This will then be an emergency situation which could open to door to government intervention in ways that we don't want.   The question naturally arises as to whether this is a case of epidemic incompetence of the federal government or whether there is some kind of bungling manipulation involved?  Are our misguided leaders grabbing onto a situation and making the most of it for their "increased government and increased control" intentions. 

Government utilizes emergencies to manipulate us.  Emergencies can be created, developed, and in some cases just appropriated.  I don't really think the Y2K situation was the invention of government, although if they were doing their job, they should have recognized the Y2K problem early and taken measures to prevent it from being the problem that it has become.  But, mostly, it is a technical problem that was just ignored too long.  But it does have the potential of becoming an emergency if the government continues to underplay the Y2K situation.  Eventually Y2K will turn into full blown panic.  Is this what the government wants to happen? 

One mechanism for increased government and loss of our freedoms is through emergency situations.  Emergency situations (i.e. wartime) are a time when we are especially willing (either by force or patriotism) to give up more of our freedoms, enabling our government to be our protector to an even higher degree.  It is a pattern, that freedoms lost are seldom restored, once the emergency is over.  It is also a pattern that once taxes are raised for an emergency situation, they are seldom lowered, even after the emergency situation has ceased. 

If the federal government has been deliberately dragging their feet on the Y2K issue just so an emergency situation will develop, panic will have been deliberately created, or at least significantly helped along.  At this late date, It would only be fair to say, that panic will come, no matter what the government says or doesn't say at this point. That's because Y2K is coming, no matter what the government does or doesn't do.   The government had a chance to something to prevent or mitigate the Y2K problem, but they did nothing. 

Following is a list of general truths that lead to the inevitable conclusion that time is running out for any who would prepare themselves for what is to come.  This information, had it been previously heeded would have constituted an early warning.   It is no longer "early."  Perhaps, even yet, the few that   "get it" can still do some survival preparation.  Those that wait too long will become victims.  Everyone will eventually understand the seriousness of the Y2K threat - it will be impossible to ignore - but it will be too late to prepare. 

ITEM #1 
By means of widespread sophisticated computer systems, producers have developed just-in-time manufacturing and delivery systems. Economic forecasting lets businesses predict with great accuracy what large numbers of people will be buying months or even years in advance. 

ITEM #2 
The earlier that people see and believe that a crisis is coming, the better the market can respond. 

[Fantasy] Manufacturers would stop producing items that no one will be buying as the crisis draws near. (not the way it works) 
[Fantasy] They would produce those items that buyers want in preparation for a disaster.   (markets do not do this, for many reasons) 

ITEM #3 
They won't produce those items that buyers want in preparation for a disaster. The main reason is that panics cannot be forecasted accurately. But there is another: producers cannot come to grips with the crisis. They cannot believe that it's coming. So, they ignore it in the same way that the average buyer ignores it: until it's too late. 

ITEM #4 
Shortages will appear in late 1999 that cannot be met except by huge price increases of key goods -- and falling prices for others, such as new cars, which will no longer be in demand. 

ITEM #5 
Those people who are unable to buy at the new prices will cry out in rage and demand anti-gouging legislation, i.e., price controls. If these laws are passed, they will create black markets in the high-demand goods markets. These goods will disappear from the legal, price-controlled markets and move into the black markets. This will escalate the public panic even more. 

ITEM #6 
The free market has lowered production costs by a universal process of inventory-reduction. Retailers use computers to send re-ordering information to producers. Wal-Mart is the master here. There are no large inventories any more. This means that unforecasted shifts in consumer demand will leave most buyers without the items they want. If demand increases for a narrow spectrum of goods, the market cannot respond fast enough with supplies. 

We are about to face a phenomenon the world has not seen since the boat shortage in Noah's day. 

ITEM #7 
The whole world will want to stock up on certain items that will not be in the production pipeline in quantities required to meet demand under the new conditions. 

We do not see this yet except in certain oddball survivalist items, such as low-priced, pre-assembled food storage programs (eight-month delivery times). People can still buy the same food items at food co-ops, but they are either lazy or ill-informed about the co-op option. But if large numbers of people find out about food co-ops, then supplies there will dry up as lines get long. 

ITEM #8 
The retail delivery markets cannot respond in time to a major shift in consumer demand. The world's marketing systems do not allow more than a small fraction of population to buy a year's supply of stored food. The system does not have the excess capacity to deliver the goods. It's too late to change this now. 

ITEM #9 
In states that have passed anti-gouging laws it is a crime to raise prices before or especially after a major physical crisis.  So, stores will not be allowed to allocate by price.  Instead, they will allocate by getting people to stand in line. People who get to the stores early buy everything in sight, since prices are still low. By law, the free market is not allowed to allocate by price. 

ITEM #10 
The only other option to control allocation of limited quantities of products, would be martial law: standing in line to get just a few items that the military authorities allow you to have. (Why, this is America, our federal government would never declare martial law like this, would they?  Only in an EMERGENCY, my friend.  Picture clean cut grim young military personnel standing around with machine guns, held in a menacing way - but you will have nothing to fear as long as you are meek and subservient - or have already prepared in advance - then you won't have had to be in this line at all). 

In late 1999, the whole world will face the ultimate EMERGENCY. The stores will be stripped. Most people will be left out in the cold. There is not enough production in the pipelines to meet demand for the items that will preserve life, beginning with land with a water well located in a less densely populated region. You know: a place like Taos, New Mexico, or even northwest Arkansas. 

We are seeing this today. Y2K can be dated. Contrary to the "nobody knows what will happen" nonsense, it's easy to see what will happen in its broad outline. Just take the hurricane scenario that speakers love to use. What do people buy in the hours before a hurricane. That's what they will be buying, if the banks are still open, in late 1999. But producers just cannot believe this is possible. If they did, they would quit, take early retirement, cash out their retirement programs, and head for the hills. Here is another Y2K Catch-22. When the Y2K  story is truly believed, wise people cash out of conventional production and start devoting more time to personal preparation. It's another reason why the market does not respond to the obvious implications of Y2K. 

If you can't understand this, think "Jews, Germany, 1933." The wise ones left the country. The ones who did not see what was coming stayed -- and criticized the "cowards" who had left. Had they heard of MEIN KAMPF? Of course. Had they read it? Parts of it, probably. Did they believe it? No. Did they think Hitler really meant what he said? No. 

The popularity of the hurricane analogy points to the nonsense that "nobody knows what will happen." Probably a million people know, at least in the broad outline. They just don't know that it will have 200 mile an hour winds and will last for a year or more. But they know a hurricane is coming. It's that hardly any of them emotionally accepts the effects of that hurricane. Koskinen discusses this phenomenon. People who live in hurricane regions have become complacent about them. They assume that they will be safe. Government will somehow protect them. They refuse to evacuate. "It won't happen to me!" 

Only one thing gets most people to act: an imminent disaster. Only then will they reallocate their spending. Too late. 

Are you like the U.S. government? If so, you're equally doomed. 

Here are a few excerpts from the NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM, TELECOMMUNICATIONS SPEECH SERVICE. . . .(Prepared remarks of Mr. John Koskinen, Assistant to the President and Chair, Presidentís Council on Year 2000 Conversion, before the Presidentís National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) Business Session, Washington, September 10, 1998. . . .) in conjunction with editorial comments: 

"We need to get people around the world to take the problem seriously, but, at the same time, we donít want them to unnecessarily panic and take actions that would be counterproductive." 

[Calm down, trust us (your eye lids are getting heavy), we are the government, your protector, and you have nothing to worry about.  You need not even think of taking any responsibility for yourselves or any independent action whatsoever.  Even though martial law will be declared (for your good), there are just so many troops that can be dispatched and they can't be everywhere at once, so you must remain calm, docile and controllable.] 

"With this problem, panic can take many forms. Itís not just packing up and moving to a vacant lot in New Mexico. Much of the overreaction that could prove difficult will involve large numbers of people deciding, for one reason or another, to change their normal behavioral patterns." 

[You need not even think of taking any responsibility for yourselves or any independent action whatsoever.  I implore you to stay where you are and take no action, just do the same as you always do.  Since we were unable to get the national ID card scheme established and operational in time, we can't limit your actions or your movements by state border guards demanding at gunpoint your ID, but we implore you to only do what we advise.  You can trust your lives to us.  If you can't trust your government, who can you trust?  For you to relocate to safer places, would be an indication that you do not trust our ability to control the inevitable civil unrest that has resulted from the Y2K emergency that we have appropriated for our use, and the ensuing panic that will inevitably occur.  Surely you have more faith and trust in your government than this.   And, hey, get rid of your weapons - if we have to root you out of your hideaways, you don't want to experience a Ruby Ridge or Waco scenario, do you?  Yes, we did kill an innocent gun shop owner in cold blood recently.  Please understand that even though we are basically kind and benevolent, we can be tough also - and we do need to demonstrate this from time to time.  But, you have nothing to fear as long as you do what we say.] 

"If 100 million Americans change anything they do in their normal pattern of economic behavior, whether it's deciding to take money out of the stock market to protect their IRAs [Individual Retirement Accounts] or show up at their gas stations in the last week of December to fill up their tanks, that will be a problem. As we all learned in the 1973 oil crisis, there's not enough gas in the pipeline to fill up everybody's tank, and if there isn't enough gas or there isn't enough canned food or if there aren't enough drugs available, you can imagine the panic that will result when people say, "See, there isn't going to be enough of everything, and there is, in fact, a great problem here." 

[Well, I think this is a good thing for all the other people to do (not really), but I think I will fill my gas tank.  Actually, this is something I do regularly anyway and I will probably continue this pattern, but probably won't wait till New Year's eve of 1999 to do it.  It would probably be a good idea to store as much fuel as you can safely manage.  Actually I will have some survival food also, purchased well in advance of the full blown panic.  If everyone would prepare well in advance, this will tend to alleviate the panic, rather than add to it.  Actually those in denial, or those following government advice are the ones that will exacerbate the Y2K scenario into a bull blown panic.  Thanks for the reminder to pick up some extras drugs that might help us to survive the panic.  Anyone who is not getting out of the stock market (except possibly for gold related stocks) before the financial meltdown is to be truly pitied.  Our friendly government advisor is telling us to not bail out of this plane that is in an uncontrollable power nose dive about to hit Albert Gores Mother Earth.] 

"We've gotten through other seemingly difficult situations, and we'll certainly be able to get through this one without people having to decide to buy a year's supply of anything." 

[Anything is possible.  A lot of people are already in this mode and will probably stay there - lots of luck.] 

"My standing up and saying "Don't take your money out of the bank, there's no problem" will simply lead everybody to say, "I guess I better get there quick before everybody else does." . . . 

[Now this is one of his better and more truthful statements.  I guess I better get there quick before everybody else does.  Hey, this guy isn't all bad is he?   Actually he has a difficult job to perform.  Wouldn't you just hate to get up and say all the things he is obligated to say?  I wonder what he really thinks.   Do you suppose he is secretly preparing?] 

"We could have, if not the equivalent of, something that is very much like a hurricane on the East Coast, an earthquake in San Francisco, massive forest fires in Montana, and flooding on the Mississippi River happening all at once. In addition to that, we could have two or three countries where there's civil unrest because the government can't provide basic services. We know how to deal with each one of those things. The question is, will we have the capacity and the resources to deal with them all at once. No one of them alone is necessarily overwhelming or threatening, but the combination is something we normally don't plan for. . . . " 

[All true statements, but without a conclusion.  Let be provide one.  I have serious doubts that the Y2K situation can or will be effectively dealt with by our government or any government.  Very possibly, the situation is so large in magnitude and in complexity and in interconnectedness internally and with other countries, that it will be virtually impossible to fully control.  This leaves each individual in the position of trying to provide for their own Y2K family survival needs the best they can, with no real assurance that whatever they do will really be adequate.  But everyone at least needs to try.  Mostly, it will be in God's hands to eventually help us to straighten out this mess.  After all, even though the end of the world is coming to an end some day, this is not it.  So, do what you can to survive the temporary emergency.  No one can tell you the time factor (the duration), but three weeks worth of survival preparation is better than none.  But then, maybe it will take six months worth, or maybe a year's worth.  It is your lottery, it is your life, pick a number.   Just don't be in denial.  Don't take the government recommendations too seriously - remember their agenda is not the same as yours.  Their recommendations relate to their control of you, not necessarily what is really in your best interest.  Since no one really knows how bad Y2K will really be, there is the possibility that it won't amount to much of anything at all - maybe two or three days of power outages, maybe a few inconveniences here and there.  Possibly those who don't prepare will make out just fine, but it is a gamble.  I don't like gambling and never do it myself, Occasionally, there are big winners - mostly there are losers.  You could also play Russian Roulette and win - but why would you want to play it?] 

The above remarks of Mr. John Koskinen have been listed with comments.  Sen. Robert Bennett, is also a part of the government, but seems to be a little more down to earth - maybe just a little on the optimistic side, so as to not discourage anyone too much, but pointed enough to encourage taking Y2K seriously.  In answer to the question "How badly do you expect the failure of other countries' systems to affect the US?," Sen. Robert Bennett replies: "Still too early to be specific, but it could be serious. Example - we get 55% of our oil from other countries, several of which will not be ready.  This could trigger an interruption of oil similar to the one we had in the early 70's. That gave us a recession. There are other scenarios that could follow this one. We are following this closely in my committee - check with us in about six months, when we are closer to the event. . ." 

Planning  on taking a trip across the US in early 2000 with your gas guzzler? - maybe not.  Sound's like gasoline and diesel might be in short supply and cost a lot of money - maybe even rationed.  Fuel will be even harder to purchase due to short supply and  we might also be in the middle of a recession.  Maybe you had ought to plan your trip a little earlier.  Some are old enough to remember the gas shortage of the 70's.  It was an irratating inconvenience, but not life threatening.  Sen. Bennett hints there may be other scenarios following this one.  Is anyone expecting good news?