We're in for a long and bumpy ride:
True, historical parallels are never precise. We won’t re-play the long depression of 1873 to 1896 exactly, nor will this slump necessarily last as long. It is, however, a far more instructive episode than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
That time frame would see this depression end in 2031, just so you see the problem.
Now, we do have some tools to use that the world didn't back in the 19th Century, of course, many of which are designed to mitigate, lessen, and shorten an economic downturn.
And many more that could easily trigger another collapse. There's the rub that many economists won't talk about.
Economics has been called the dismal science. I prefer to think of it as more of a social science that gets mathematics. A little. The trouble with economics is it's very hard to factor the human element into it.
A few decades ago, one could make the case that people weren't as greedy, and they'd work to change things. I think it's less that they were not greedy as they simply didn't have the tools like computers and software that can make instantaneous decisions and act upon them.
People are greedy pigs, is what I'm saying, and if you put enough in front of them, they want more.
If the economy can be "fixed" before the tools necessary to exploit this downturn and turn it into a complete economic flatline can be developed, we stand a chance of coming out of it within the decade.
I just don't see that happening, however. Greed is a far better motivator than seeing your neighbor's lot improve and applauding it. There are very few rules that keep most of us from breaking and entering a house to swipe an iPad and once the urge-- or more important, need-- becomes strong enough, those rules are discarded.
Those rules are external, and there are even fewer internalized rules governing our behavior. Ultimately, in desperate situations, even those rules fall by the wayside.
This is something that the one percent and those who aspire to it should keep in mind: no nation is more than three meals from a revolt.
That's somewhat hyperbolic, but if the breakdown in local society evidenced by Katrina is any indication, it's not far off base: three days, maybe four, and you have chaos.
That argument, above all others, is fuel enough to pay attention to the Occupy people and liberals who would be accused of fomenting socialism (when all they want is equity and fairness.) That "socialism-lite" that liberals are accused of would be a damned site better for all of us, including the entrenched elite, than the inevitable chaos that will occur if we don't fix this problem and lift all the boats in the harbor.