The "Decker" Scale : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Dear Reader,

As part of my continuing public service, I submit a Y2K scale for your perusal. Please feel free to comment or suggest additional criteria for each level on the logarithmic scale.


1 - Business is great. The U.S. continue the longest expansion in modern history. The economy hums along with low inflation, low unemployment, stable corporate earnings, low interest rates, etc. There are virtually no Y2K-related disruptions in basic services and no increase in corporate or personal bankruptcies.

2 - Mild economic slowdown. Minimal Y2K disruptions. Other economic factors (like energy price shocks, international woes) begin to slow the expansion. The market flattens as do corporate profits. The rate of job creation slows. The tight labor market creates the first signs of inflation. Most people do not notice the economic downturn. Jay Leno jokes about Y2K preparation on the Tonight Show.

3 - Moderate economic slowdown. Y2K causes problems for some government agencies and businesses, but mostly fixable glitches. There is an increase in bankruptcy filings for consumers and small businesses. The stock market starts sliding and there is a moderate loss of GDP. Some companies begin announcing layoffs. Some people are impacted, especially those who live "on the margin." The welfare rolls begin to climb as the working poor fall off the economic ladder. Y2K is seen as a minor contributing factor to the downturn.

4 - Serious economic slowdown. The stock market corrects and the U.S. has a signficant loss of GDP. Y2K problems cause headaches for some firms. Computer failures cause modest, but quickly resolved, problems in the supply chain. Basic services remain mostly intact, but local and state government struggle with routine issues like billing. Some areas are without basic services for 48 hours.

5 - Moderate recession. Y2K-related problems echo throughout the economy. A wizened expansion dies quickly of old-age, price shocks and Y2K-related problems. Interest rates increase as the Federal Reserve tries to stop inflationary pressures. Increased rates force some consumers and small businesses into bankruptcy. Consumer confidence ebbs. The market takes a 1000+ dive and starts a long, painful descent towards reasonable valuation. Many people feel the economic effects, particularly those with variable rates loans. A few areas suffer basic services problems, but these are resolved within a few days. Y2K problems are much more severe.

6 - Severe recession. The wheels fall off the wagon. After a historic expansion, the U.S. gets a crash course in hard times. Unemployment jumps as the "temporary" workforce finds itself out of a job. Inflation and interest rates begin to climb. The market plummets, but finds a stable bottom. Welfare rolls swell and all levels of government begin to run deficits. Taxes increase as governments attempt to "buy" consumer confidence and jump start economic activity. Y2K-related problems cause some disruptions of basic services and many hard-to-solve problems for public and private organizations. Basic services are down for up to a week in some areas. Y2K problems causes civil unrest in some urban areas.

7 - Severe long-term recession. At this level, the stock market has trouble finding a bottom. Foreign investors flee U.S. equities. Domestic investors move into fixed instruments. Several Fortune 1000 companies file for bankruptcy protection. All the woes of level 6 lasting 12 to 18 months. Y2K problems are extensive. Some agencies cannot function. Some areas experience basic services outages of up to two weeks. Nearly all areas are impacted by some level of Y2K- related problems. The President orders National Guard units into some areas of serious disruption.

8 - Near meltdown. Y2K problems combine with public panic to create a short term catastrophe. The markets are closed and there are problems with basic financial services. There is extensive civil unrest in some large urban areas. At this point, the economic problems are becoming secondary to the social problems. Some areas are without basic services for 30 days.

9 - Depression. If the U.S. experiences extended level 8 disruptions, the economy collapses. Social order is restored, but inflation, unemployment and interest rates move into double digits. The economic malaise lasts longer than 30 months.

10 - Complete social collapse. The fall of the United States into anarchy. Depression with signficant social conflict. Lawlessness, disorder, food riots, etc.

-- Mr. Decker (, April 12, 1999


In what sense is this logarithmic ? In both the number progression used and the social/economic severities described, it seems straightforwardly linear, like other y2k scales.

-- Blue Himalayan (bh@k2.y), April 12, 1999.

Blue -- Agree.

"As part of my continuing public service, I submit a Y2K scale for your perusal." As always, Decker is just a modest guy doing his best to set the rest of us straight ..... though what this adds to the scales already devised is a deep and dark mystery.

-- BigDog (, April 12, 1999.

I would say that rather than the "Decker Scale" this should be called the "WDCY2K Scale". That is where you plagarized this from, right Mr. Decker?

-- (No@More.Scales), April 12, 1999.

As an aside, 7-8 is what the "experts" think.

-- SCOTTY (, April 12, 1999.


1. BH, roughly logarithmic in effects (not in the 1 -10 scale itself). Of course, we may disagree.

2. BD, I really am a modest fellow (although my dry sense of humor seems lost on many). You seem rather testy for a St. John's theologian. Perhaps your time in information systems has dulled interest in the scriptures. Of course, I presume you read them for something other than amusement. I am willing to engage in polite debate. You, however, seem content to simply malign most of my posts. In light of what we both know of the New Testament, I ask for your forgiveness if I have offended you. Perhaps in our future contact, we can strive for a more civil discourse.

3. I wrote the scale over a mid-morning bagel and juice. I have not, nor will I ever, plagiarize. When I have used the work of others in my posts, I have been careful in attribution.

Mr. Decker

-- Mr. Decker (, April 12, 1999.

1. Idealist

2-3. Optimist

4-6. Realist

7-8. Pessimist

9. Survivalist

10. Fatalist

Any thoughts?

Mr. Decker

-- Mr. Decker (, April 12, 1999.

Decker, where are you on this scale?

-- a (a@a.a), April 12, 1999.

Mr. Decker,

With or without y2k our economy is long over due for a serious recession and/or depression. Contrary to popular opinion, business cycles are still a fact of life.


-- Ray (, April 12, 1999.

What bothers me that I'm a realist (6) (but I claim Doomer just to irk the pollies).... obviously, knocking out all non-mortgage debt would be the wise financial prescription if the number 6 is to come out of the lotto chute.

But if 100 million realists do that - pay off & quit incurring debt - then we'd blast ourselves into a recession even prior to the rollover. What an awful catch-22.

-- Lisa (, April 12, 1999.

Mr. Deck-

Sometimes your "dry sense of humor" comes across as smart-ass, but that's OK, this is America.

I appreciate your scale. It helps put things in perspective.

BTW, I'm praying for a 3, expecting a 6, and making sure my family can withstand an 8. How 'bout you?

-- rick blaine (, April 12, 1999.

Decker said,

"2. BD, I really am a modest fellow (although my dry sense of humor seems lost on many). You seem rather testy for a St. John's theologian. Perhaps your time in information systems has dulled interest in the scriptures. Of course, I presume you read them for something other than amusement. I am willing to engage in polite debate. You, however, seem content to simply malign most of my posts. In light of what we both know of the New Testament, I ask for your forgiveness if I have offended you. Perhaps in our future contact, we can strive for a more civil discourse."

Decker, now you're hitting below the belt in a number of areas, but very, very cleverly phrased riposte :-)

Overlooking your SELF-declared modesty here (should I rest my case?), I am rather testy on some subjects, I confess. I assume you know there are no St. John's theologians and I do not intend to set up as one!

Yes, I am passionately interested and devoted to the scriptures. But with respect to "debate", you no doubt know that Jesus used words like "vipers", "snakes" and "hypocrites" with surprising abandon for someone whom modern religionists view as "meek and mild". There was also that small matter of overturning the tables in the Temple AND promising that quite a few folks would indeed burn in hell eternally. I quite understand why non-Christians on this forum who themselves took scripture seriously when they read it could become quite hostile to those of us who have taken His name on us.

This said, the only person I've ever taken offense at on this forum for a post was Flint's on "GIs" a month or so ago because I felt it was truly intellectually vicious. I probably do get too much of a kick out of tweaking you and, for that, I apologize sincerely. I take at face value your desire to engage in polite debate. It's just not one of my interests, but I'll try to behave myself a bit better, at least until we meet at the Middleton Tavern ....

.... but I never said I was a prototypical St. Johnnie, did I? BTW, Flint, bless him, IS a prototypical St. Johnnie .....

-- BigDog (, April 12, 1999.

Mr. Decker

My only gripe with your scale is the lack of time limits. A long period of stagnation might be worse overall than a short recession with a quick recovery.

Ray - I don't understand the idea of being 'overdue' for a recession. Recession/Depression is not like hatching eggs - we don't have one come along on any sort of schedule - unless you are referring to the cycles in the economy. If so, then we are not due for several more years. Check out a book published in the 50's that was simply named 'Cycles'. In the chapter titled 'Cycles in the American Economy' they published a chart of the economic cycles they had identified. Extending that chart is very interesting - our economic fortunes over the next 40 years followed the predictions of the cyclic theory reasonably well. I have kept a copy of that chart, and extended it through 2000. Interesting fact - the cycles we will have this year, by the authors reckoning, are almost exactly the opposite of the cycles we had in 1928. So the cyclic theory predicts almost the exact opposite of the Great Depression, now and through the next several years. Mr. Decker undoubtedly knows more about such cycles than I do - perhaps he would care to comment?

-- Paul Davis (, April 12, 1999.

Make it simple ...

1) Bump ...

5) Global depression ... (local economies up or down ... depending)

10) Global thermonuclear war

... Then fill in the blanks.

Diane, still a "5"

-- Diane J. Squire (, April 12, 1999.

Paul, I follow the Elliot Wave cycles. Robert Prechter has been a student of R. N. Elliot for many long years. In 1978 he predicted a massive bull market ahead. This was when Time magazine ran it's infamous cover page "The Stock Market, May It RIP" .

In 1995 he wrote a book entitled "At the Crest of the Tidal Wave". In it he forsaw massive deflation and a depression worse than that of the 1930s. This was before y2k was even a blip on the radar screen so to speak. I don't believe he ever thought the stock market would reach these precarious heights.

Here is a quote from it:

"Obtain a residance in an area that is unlikely to be the target of mob violence or looting. Move as much money out of the U. S. banking system as you comfortably can. Have some paper currency and a bag of silver coins on hand for emergency purchases if the banks close. Insure food supplies for what is likely to be a short period of unavailability of basic necessities. Investigate alternative countries or continents if the government becomes unbearably oppressive or a serious military conflict appears imminent any time in the years ahead. I also recommend that you arrange to help provide food and or shelter for local citizens who were unprepared and fall on hard times. It will not only bring personal satisfaction but will make your community a more pleasant place to live...........from page-421 of his book written in 1995.


-- Ray (, April 12, 1999.

Mr. Davis,

Agreed. A long stagnant spell can be more destructive than a sharp recession and quick rebound. Unfortunately, we hardly know how to predict "when" the economy will fatigue, let alone how long the downturn will be. The current expansion has made fools of many economists. Personally, I am hoping breakthroughs in chaos math will give us better tools.

The theory of business "cycles" is rather out of favor with most economists. The upward business cycle (you may remember the sine wave from your undergraduate economics class) is more elegant than accurate. We are still trying to make complex systems fit into Newtonian formulae. (physics envy)

Of course, this does not mean we have solved the riddle of continuous prosperity. There is something to be said for the foibles of human pyschology. "Irrational exhuberance" can overtake good judgement. In truth, the explosion of Internet daytraders make me nervous. The overall strength of the market has given some investors a false sense of confidence. When a bear market arrives (and it will), it could get bloody quite fast.

While I have a great deal of faith in the free market, I have taken an increasingly defensive position with regard to my personal investments. While I cannot claim to predict the effects of Y2K with laser precision, there are definitive signs of potential trouble in our current economy.

Does this help?

Mr. Decker

-- Mr. Decker (, April 12, 1999.

Ah you and I both there - "increasingly conservative w/r personal investments" - or words misspelled to that effect. You are perhaps taking into effect that there is a one-to-one ratio between the amount of IRA/401K/pension fund money going into the stock market and the relative stock market index. Today's D-J average market price has no more "absolute" value than 5500-6000 - based on "real" economic expansion and growth since it last passed 1000. The rest is speculation-driven retirement money.

" I'm praying for a 3, expecting a 6, and making sure my family can withstand an 8. How 'bout you? " - Sounds about right.

My absolute, guaranteed-to-be-correct prediction:

.... there will be many and varied failures of many and various systems affecting many and various people in many weird and various ways in irregular regions of the world that will last irregular periods of time, leading to fast and slow recoveries of various sorts back to normal over various timeframes, each failure of which will be caused by and affected by the different effects of the different problems in different computers and processes to different populations and cultures - and many of the worst effects will be in those systems and processes which will not be predicted to be affected ahead of time.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 12, 1999.

Mr. Decker,

Thank you for your scale. I'll add it to my list of scales. :)

A few miscellaneous points:

As I recall, business cycles were out of favor with economists in 1929, too.

We're already fulfilling many of your level 3 items -- specifically, large-scale layoffs (Boeing, John Deere and other farm equipment mfgrs, etc.) Farmers are in tough financial straights right now (due to the recession in much of the rest of the world). Oil fields in the US are shutting down. Bankrupcy filings are up the past 2 years or so (especially individual). Y2K is now causing a few problems for gov'ts and businesses. About the only thing at level 3 that isn't happening is a stock market decline (I'd expect that at level 5, BTW).

-- Dean -- from (almost) Duh Moines (, April 12, 1999.

Robert said,

".... there will be many and varied failures of many and various systems affecting many and various people in many weird and various ways in irregular regions of the world that will last irregular periods of time, leading to fast and slow recoveries of various sorts back to normal over various timeframes, each failure of which will be caused by and affected by the different effects of the different problems in different computers and processes to different populations and cultures - and many of the worst effects will be in those systems and processes which will not be predicted to be affected ahead of time."

Definitely the best prediction ever made on this board.

And (drum roll) the vaunted free market, which I love, will indeed spawn hundreds of exciting opportunities post-Y2K and play a vital role in re-stablizing things eventually.


-- BigDog (, April 12, 1999.


Lots of upcoming entrepreneural opportunities in "sustainable living."

Y2K might even be the "how to" catalyst.


-- Diane J. Squire (, April 12, 1999.

Gentle readers,

This has turned into a genuinely good natured thread. I must confess, with some irony, that I am probably better qualified for small scale farming or ranching than economic "pick and shovel" work. Of course, that may not be saying much.


-- Mr. Decker (, April 12, 1999.

Diane -- I agree. Ironically (given Y2K itself), recent technology/networks make possible regional and local independence (let's not exaggerate and call it self-sufficiency) that would make a partial circle back to the more convivial communities of a century ago.

Though I find lots of Carmichael's stuff yucky (remember, I'm an anti-Slickite), I agree with him that, unfortunately, the evidence so far is that big biz-gov sees Y2K as a simple threat with no opportunity ... that is, just a danger to the status quo. However, if we're very, very lucky, 2000-2005 may afford a rare window for some "small is beautiful" experiments based around more intelligent USE of information technologies. Come to think of it, some of those experiments may be driven by necessity, no?

-- BigDog (, April 12, 1999.

Perhaps now we'll learn that true inter-dependence also means individually independent and self-reliant while living within self- resilient communities.

What we created was co-dependence. Totally different.

That, and living within illusion.


-- Diane J. Squire (, April 12, 1999.

I think if Diane's scale above were labeled 1-2-3 (so as no longer to imply intermediate stages that would make it appear more linear), this would be a good candidate for a scale that is logarithmic (exponential) in social/economic/eninvronmental effects.

-- Blue Himalayan (bh@k2.y), April 12, 1999.

From Jim Lord's latest Westergaard 2000 article...


And what about Window Number Three. According to the recent Senate Y2K Report several important sectors are stuck here. They're on a collision course and have no plans or capability to change their fate. They are on track to strike the Y2K iceberg. They include:

1. Half of the small governmental entities in the country. Cities, towns, counties, school districts, water conservancy boards, etc.

2. Half of the small businesses in the country. These constitute the bottom end of the supply chain for much of large business and the federal government. I wonder how many tens of thousands of small businesses provide critical spare parts to the U.S. military? My informal research indicates zero effort by the military to determine the Y2K compliance of any of these vendors.

3. Eighty percent or more of developing countries of the world. They provide many critical goods, most notably oil.

4. The Healthcare industry, which accounts for one seventh of the economy.

If Y2K consisted of nothing but the four items above, it would be a major problem. I'm no economist but there are enough seeds here alone for a recession it seems to me.


-- Kevin (, April 12, 1999.

Unfortunately, Diane, I don't think we have much cause for optimism taking the culture broadly. One of the nastiest aspects of Ko-skin-em's activities, which I suspect has Slick's explicit support, is the continued infantilizing of the citizenry through the "anti-panic" campaign. All of 1998-99 could have been devoted to a national conversation on just this topic. That it hasn't is a commentary on the gross lack of national leadership, though, BTW, we wouldn't have gotten it from a George Bush or Bob Dole either.

-- BigDog (, April 12, 1999.

And be sure to read Big Dog's bestseller, "Clear Thinking Through Derogatory Name-Calling"

It's helped so many of us here.

-- Flint (, April 12, 1999.

Flint --- ROFL. That was truly funny. I deserved it. Why do I think you'll try to keep me honest on the name-calling? But you really should apologize for that GI thread .... and are you an Atlanta Braves fan or not?

-- BigDog (, April 12, 1999.

Blue Himalayan,

Consider my scale as more a bell curve, with extreme end points and a mid-point. As I mentioned on another thread ... white -> grey -> black. The bell curve is "simpler" and more apropos to economic situations. On average.

Decker's scale is a bit logarithmicly weighted at the top end, in his words, from "idealistic to fatalist." People have always found the earthquake Richter scale analogies "confusing."

Life is rarely "average." Usually unexpected, and often off the charts.


(Is there an echo?)

-- Diane J. Squire (, April 12, 1999.

Big Dog:

OK, I apologize to everyone to whom my GI thread didn't apply. Which really is the majority of us. But it was pretty mild, when applied to 3 or 4 true loonies.


I felt Decker's scale was logarithmic in the sense that each level (I thought) implied about e times as many bugs as the prior level. And I feel this is very significant, since Decker and I share a bias -- that the economy is robust and resiliant, and a lot of negative feedbacks operate in there. Pushing against the economy is like pushing against a spring -- to compress it a fixed increment takes more and more force with each successive increment. I strongly disagree with the commonly expressed belief that on the GI scale, a 6 or 7 can 'easily' slide to a 10. I think going from 7 to 8 requires a lot more damage than going from 6 to 7, for example.

-- Flint (, April 12, 1999.

Sir Decker - of the "pick and shovel farmer" -

Having some small experience in pick and shoveling whilest building and aligning a modest foundation and deck in the back yard - I strongly recommend letting somebody have the pleasure of getting paid with your money while you enjoy the air conditioning and more simple pleasures of life indoors.

Fight hard to keep these current level of services available - losing 'em ain't fun.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 12, 1999.

Professional Engineer Cook,

First, your assessment of the current market seems a trifle low based on most valuations.

"Of the 350% increase in the S&P 500 since the start of the current economic expansion, fully 80% of the increase can explained by rising corporate profits, lower interest rates and demographic trends. These factors explain an S&P 500 price index equal to 1025. Given that the S&P 500 is currently trading near 1225, the stock market is overvalued by nearly 20%. This is approximately equal to the stock market's estimated overvaluation before the 1987 stock market crash." Mark Zandi, 1999

We can bicker about the details, but clearly the market is overvalued. As I noted in an earlier post, I have taken profits and moved into a defensive position. I think the bubble will burst, but due to other factors as much as Y2K.

You are quite correct in your assessment of pick and shovel farming. My formative years were spent in a Montana river valley. Just below a very thin layer of topsoil, a million years of river stone waited for us. If I might venture a guess, most of the folks who are starry eyed over a self sufficient homestead have never helped deliver a calf at 3:00 a.m... in a snow-slush creek bottom. Or bucked 100 pound hay bales in August heat when the dust is so thick you spit mud. And I'll wager they have yet to pick their first 100,000 stones. Yes, Mr. Cook, I enjoy the benefits of modern living, moreso having lived the alternative.


-- Mr. Decker (, April 13, 1999.

Good point, Diane. We should separate the geometrics of the outcome scale from the probability density function of each of the various outputs. Thus, it is plausible to have a scale that is exponential (like the Richter scale), with a separate probability density function for various outcomes. Thus, perhaps (who knows?) the "bell curve" for earthquakes would be a normal distribution centered around, say, 3.0, with a standard deviation of 1 or something. This would mean that 3.0 is the most likely strength for an earthquake, described by a normal curve, but using the distinctions provided by the exponential Richter scale. Of course, more likely the PDF for earthquake strength is not normal. This was just an example. Actually "real" earthquake people don't like the Richter scale anyway.

-- Blue Himalayan (bh@k2.y), April 13, 1999.

I still think Jo Anne Slaven wrote one of the most plausible Y2K scenarios I've seen...


Scenario ----------- Jo Anne's -------- Thinking About a Possible Future

by Jo Anne Slaven

I think that the people in this group use the hurricane/earthquake examples because those "disasters" are ones that the ordinary person can easily imagine and relate to in some way. While this may be a good starting point in explaining the possible outcome of this whole mess, I have to agree that it's not going to be at all like that. I picture more of a "creeping catastrophe". Putting aside the possibility of violence and looting for the moment, here's one way I can see it playing out.

November and December 1999 is panic time. The general public scrambling desperately for non-perishable foods, candles, and generators. I don't think that the people participating in the "1999 supply riots" will necessarily be thinking long-term. But they *will* want their 2-weeks worth of food and cash "just in case".

January 1 - 10 is blackout time for a lot of people. Obviously, that means no banks, no phones, etc. But somehow, the brave men in the hydro companies manage to bring power back up (sort of) in most places.

January 11 - 31 is *major* annoyance time. The ATMs are off-and-on. Power and phones are off-and-on. Your bank may be out of business. Fuel supplies are sporadic. Your water bill is screwed up, and you have to spend 4 hours in line to talk to someone about adjusting it. All you can find at the grocery store is mustard and plastic forks. The company that you work for had declared a brief lay-off until things settle down.

February 1 to May 31 is depression time. Nobody is buying all of those useless products on the market today (like beanie babies and leather sofas), so a lot of manufacturers and retailers have shut down. Not to mention hotels, restaurants and service companies. And the banks - they won't be doing too well either. Lots and lots of people out of work.


June 1 to September 30 is "cautiously hopeful" time. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables are available, and everyone is looking forward to the abundance of foods that will be in the stores come the fall. There won't be enough to go around, but people are ignoring that for the moment.

October 1 to Lord-knows-when is Serious Shortage time (and a continuation of depression time). Shoes, clothing, fresh fruits and vegetables - anything that is normally imported from developing countries is in *very* short supply. And expensive. Not that the unemployed masses could afford to buy anything anyway. Perhaps more important, raw manufacturing materials from other countries are non- existant. As are the foreign markets for finished goods.

And so it goes on. Bad times building on bad times. And remember that I left looting and violence out of the equation. Also omitted were martial law, nuclear "accidents" and disease.

I could be wrong though. It could be worse. (with acknowledgements to infomagic)

Jo Anne, who needs to buy more candles


-- Kevin (, April 13, 1999.

Might happen - I don't think its very likely - but it might happen. More likely - certain will be hit very badly - pick, for example, some townships in South Africa or regions in Southern Italy, while other areas will be relatively okay - maybe Sicily, Lebonan and Syria - they could remain as-is, and certain areas won't notice - pick Kurdistan or Afganistan.

Mexico - uncertain. Brazil - uncertain. Columbia - threatened more than Brazil, but overall, also less integrated so less fragile. Israel - threatened, fragile, and very tightly integrated with few reserve capacities. But a tremedously strong people - who will not break or shatter - no matter what the effects or troubles.

Overall - who knows? Chile, Argentina - relatively strong, semi-indepedent, apparently relatively resilient people. But also less advanced and integrated (technology-wise) than Japan or Korea - are they more threatened, or more able to "make-do"? Can't tell. The possible failure of the high-speed trains in Japan will be more trouble than the loss of any train network in Argentina - but the Japanese are more likely to recover their system before Argentina can its network - but the Argintinian train could run without automatic controls also - impossible in the high-speed train.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 13, 1999.

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