Columnists everywhere are predicting the results of the Y2K bug. I could be original and write about something completely different, or I could jump on the bandwagon and add my predictions to the fray. Here's what will happen:
- Survivalists will head for their cabins in the woods to await the end of the world. Some of them will kill each other. No one will consider this a great loss.
- A few stoplights in a few small towns, and maybe one or two large ones, will fail.
- There will be a couple of power outages in scattered parts of the country. Some might take as long as a day or two to fix.
- A sewerage plant somewhere will leave a valve open causing a big mess. One or two industrial plants will do the same. The damage will be minimal, but the media, hungry for stories, will exaggerate them into horrible disasters.
- One or two or six loopy religious cults, and a few independent Loopy Religious Nuts (LRNs) will commit suicide to celebrate the end of the millennium. This will be repeated on a smaller scale a year later, by LRNs who can do math.
- There will be a minor run on the banks, starting around December. The Feds are already printing up extra currency to prepare for it. It will peak a week before the New Year's Eve. By the end of January most of the money will be back in the banks. There will be a surge in consumer spending during January, caused partly by elation that nothing horrible happened, and partly by people unable to resist spending the money in their hands.
And that's about it. Some stuff will break. Most won't. There are plenty of talented, hard-working people on hand just waiting for stuff to break, and when it does they will fix it. No big deal, its their job. (I'm one of them, except for the hard-working part.)
I'm so confident in these predictions I'm willing to bet a beer, or a cigar, on them. If I'm right (hint: I am) you can congratulate me as you pay up. If I'm wrong you'll be too busy foraging through the ashes to worry about it, so I figure it's a pretty safe bet either way.
Columnists who are predicting massive rioting and societal breakdown have evidently never read the newspapers that publish their pontifications. Once or twice a year some part of the country is devastated by some natural disaster. Hundreds or thousands or even tens of thousands of people are suddenly left without shelter, food, transportation or communications. They never react by rampaging and killing each other for the last Snickers bar. Instead they band together, sharing whatever they have until help arrives. As soon as possible they all pitch in to clean up the mess. Neighbors, even those who don't like each other, help each other out to reach their common goal of getting back to normal.
Of course there are always a few people eager to profit from the collective misery. Last year parts of Upstate NY were paralyzed by power losses due to ice storms. Some places were without power for weeks. A few people drove their trucks to unaffected areas, bought up every generator in sight, then returned and sold them for three times retail. They earned a few bucks and the eternal contempt of their neighbors. We can expect a bit of this in the few places that may have Y2K trouble. We can also expect that the media will blow it all out of proportion.
Its almost unfortunate that most of us will be unaffected by Y2K. Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if some of the dire predictions came true and disasters of all sorts hit a substantial portion of the country. It would take months for the primary clean up, and a year or two before everything was back to normal. Millions of people would be joined together by hard work and a common goal, making new friends, teaching their skills to others and learning new ones themselves. We’d pull together as neighbors and as a nation. When it was over people who had previously sought self-esteem by looking down on others would instead find it in the satisfaction of a difficult job done well. It might be just the thing we need to get back to being proud, self-sufficient Americans, instead of the whining, self-righteous nannies we've become.
© 1999 Dave Hitt
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