On the previous page, we saw how excessive welfare, massive government bureaucracy and the destructive act of war can set a society back many decades, but also how the resulting hard times can shape the mindset of the population to one of industriousness and thrift. Such a collective mindset is the most valuable thing that a society can ever dream of having and leads to great increases in the average quality of life. Unfortunately, however, such rapid progress has a dark side as well.
As quality of life improves, the population increases both their numbers and their consumption exponentially. These are good years, but the new generation born into this age of affluence simply does not have the perspective of the older people who have lived through hard times. As a result, these young people soon accept over-consumption as the status quo. They begin to measure their material success against each other and manage to create a social norm where massive consumption is a sign of status. This simultaneous growth in numbers and per-capita consumption puts more and more pressure on the environment until several crucial tipping points are crossed and the ability of the land to produce food, energy, building materials and clean water is seriously impeded. As a result, the supply of these basic consumables shrinks significantly and prices begin rising once more.
By this time, significant inequality has also developed within the society and the poorer citizens are hit very hard by these rapidly rising prices. The resulting class conflict leads to further loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, leading to further price hikes. Once again, things are going downhill fast, but luckily for this fictional little story, our society consists of only a million or so people and it is not long before hundreds of thousands of them decide to simply pack up their things and move to a new and unspoilt land to begin anew. As a result, the population is very quickly sliced in half, the pressure on the environment is reduced and the society is allowed to rebuild once more.
In a very wise move, the government decides to invest in sustainable agriculture, power and resource management and begins incentivising citizens to invest in the necessary infrastructure and skills. In a less wise move, they also decide that the fixed gold monetary system they were using is too restrictive and replace it with a paper currency which can be printed by a government controlled bank whenever the government says so.
One very smart move and on very stupid move. The next page will see how this turns out.