Welcome to the Savage World of the Year 2009

Monday, Jun 8, 2009

"Welcome to the savage world of the year 2009". That was the tag line of the 1992 sci-fi film Freejack , starring Emilio Estevez. Do you remember it? The movie that featured Cadillac Gage V100 wheeled APCs painted in bright colors? My old friend All-Grace-No-Slack-Really-Reformed Kris just reminded me about this movie. Kris noted: "It was a bit corny but it had some good scenes and characters such as Amanda Plummer as the gun-toting nun." This film provides an insight on what futurists then thought 2009 would be like, as well as a retrospective on life in 1992.

Let's look back at 1992: It is amazing how much the world has changed since 1992. To me, it doesn't seem that long ago. In 1992 I was 32 years, old, and our first child was an infant. In 1992, .308 ball cost $180 per thousand rounds, a Colt M1911 cost around $350, and cases of MREs could be bought at gun shows for around $30 each. Back in those days, I was running a mail order business from home, selling magazines. I was buying M1 Carbine 15 round magazines in cases of 100, for $90 per case, and re-selling them by the onesees and twosees for $3 per magazine. (One of my "get rich slow" ventures.) In 1992, you could still buy a plane ticket for cash, and stroll right up to the departure gate without a ticket in hand. Yes, there was a metal detector, but you could board a commercial flight with a pocketknife with a single-edge blade less than 2-1/2" long. (Remember when knife catalogs had "Airline approved" models?) In 1992, gasoline was $1.05 per gallon ($1.09 for premium), and a good loaf of bread still cost 49 cents. In 1992 you could take a car trip into Mexico or Canada, with a smile and the wave of your state driver's license.

In 1992, I owned a small ranch near Orofino, Idaho. House prices there ranged from $39,000 to $155,000. (In 1989, we had paid $29,000 for an unfinished house on 40 acres.) Silver started that year at $4.20 per ounce, but drifted down to under $3.70 in December. (It was still in the midst of a two-decade long bear market.) A semi-auto AK-47 cost $179, an AR-15 was around $500, and an M1A was $800.

Fast forward to 2009: The local gun shops are chronically short of ammunition, and what little they do receive from their wholesalers sells out immediately, at an average of $1 per round. Today .308 ball costs $900 per thousand rounds, a Colt M1911 costs around $1,200. A case of MREs can cost upwards of $90, and a loaf of bread is anywhere from 99 cents for the dreadful "air bread" to $4.69 for the good stuff. Gas is back up to more than $2.50 per gallon. A semi-auto AK-47 costs around $700, a low-end AR-15 is around $1,200, and a standard grade M1A is $1,600 if you can find one. Today, people line up like sheep and remove their shoes before boarding an airplane, and opening a checking account requires umpteen pieces of identification. Now, thanks to "Homeland Security" regulations, they will turn you down if you don't have a physical street address. (BTW, that gets a bit sticky here in The Unnamed Western State, where lots of my neighbors live so far back in the boonies that they don't have a street address. The bankers get all befuddled if you start quoting the Township, Range, and Section numbers of your quarter-section.

In 2009, house prices are still plummeting from their 2006 highs, but still quite "spendy." A house around Orofino with a good spring now costs around $400,000. Who knows? In the current bear market, the price of houses may not bottom until they are close to their 1992 levels. Oh, and wait a minute! Firearms manufactuers are now working around the clock, and prices are expected to soon come back down. In 1992, a Steyr AUG cost $800, but then they peaked in 2008 at around $4,000. But now new production AUGs (made by Steyr in the US) have hit the market for under $1,800. You gotta love a free market economy. Maybe the more that things change, the more they remain the same.

The "Freejack" script was loosely based on Robert Sheckley's novel "Immortality, Inc." The screenwriters had a few things right, but plenty of things wrong. For example, the "destroyed ozone layer" hasn't wrecked our health. And I don't feel at risk of my brain being hijacked. But, then again, I don't own a television.

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