DECEMBER 20, 1999
Y2K minus 11
© 1999

Twenty months ago I wrote my first Y2K column for WorldNetDaily. At that time I wrote, "It is really not my intention to scare folks, but the sad, brutal reality is that the turn of the century probably is going to result in big-time, large-scale, global problems. The recent underreported scrambling to 'solve' the problems of the so-called 'millennium bug' is way too little, and far too late." Since then, Y2K has turned into a boutique industry. Y2K has caused people to move, stockpile food and water, purchase generators, buy guns and ammunition and traumatized business large and small.

Last year I first wrote about Y2K: "The latest revised estimates are that it is going to cost worldwide over $6 trillion to correct the myriad computer-related problems that will be caused by the myopia of pioneer computer programmers, and the subsequent procrastination of folks who should know better." Today, honestly no one knows or will report what has or has not been spent.

This weekend the Washington Post reported, "With the year 2000 and its potential for computer-related problems less than 13 days away, Washington area officials are mobilizing an unprecedented volume of people, equipment and supplies -- a buildup that follows months of pretend-it's-New-Year's emergency drills. No one is really sure whether it's all necessary, but with Y2K, as with politics, perception makes it real. Or real enough."

"We are hoping that this is all going to be a flop," said John Patton, chief deputy sheriff in the tranquil suburb of Loudoun County, whose office has bought gas masks in case deputies need to use tear gas on New Year's weekend to break up crowds angered by Y2K problems. "We're anticipating that we'll all be ridiculed for overkill. But if it does go bad, we'll be able to deal with it."

I've been researching Y2K for two years now, and the weird thing about this issue, is no one really knows what will or won't happen ... or how long it will be before the fat lady sings. Contrary to bad television disaster movies and worst-case scenario doomsayers, the one most significant thing I have learned about Y2K is that it will not be an event. It is not going to begin and end when clocks strike twelve. Y2K is, and will be a process. Timothy Chou, the Chief Operating Officer of the Reason company of Mountain View, reinforced that opinion (kinda). His firm specializes in assisting companies in dealing with Y2K-related computer problems. When I asked him about the event versus process aspect, he said "Yeah Geoff, it will not be an event, but a process." Cool! So I then asked if enough Band-Aids would solve the problems in six months? He smiled an uncomfortable smile and replied "No ... the process will continue for about five years." Five years? Come on?

Consider what we know, and what we don't know. When I first started peeling this onion there were two extremes: Dr. Gary North and his "worst calamity since the bubonic plague" and the government's "Hakuna Mattata ... no worries." My view has been the same for almost a year. I think it will not be as bad as North suggests, however, it will be worse than the government will acknowledge. My personal opinion is that there will not be any global meltdown. However, there will be a series of significant, albeit temporary disruptions.

Here is my WAG forecast. Within 60 days I'll either be a prophet or a goat:

Last year I wrote, "According to the experts, even best-case scenario remedial measures will result in less than half of the federal agencies being ready for the chaos of Dec. 31, 1999. The United States Defense Department claims they can solve the problems by the year 2012. The Department of Energy claims by 2019 they will have it handled. Both of those optimistic projections are waaaay too late." Notwithstanding government obfuscation, that situation has not changed significantly.

There have been more Y2K tests conducted in more venues than Bill Clinton's administration lies. We are told everything is cool, and we have been told nothing is cool. The eventual result of Y2K will be more a function of luck and prayer than by guess and by golly.

Regardless of whatever does or does not happen with Y2K (have you noticed how it has become a noun), I find it interesting that what I wrote in April of last year still seems prudent. "I really don't know how really bad it is going to be, but I DO know it is going to be a lot worse than any official is willing to admit. In the meantime, since this potential tragedy is something you and I can't really affect, I STRONGLY recommend that ... everyone makes the concerted effort to obtain hard copies of significant documentation: IRS records, DMV records, bank statements, medical records, retirement account records, etc." I also suggested folks should "Keep, obtain, and protect firearms, learn to fish, garden, and consider how (if the worst case scenario does happen) you can feed your family."

Frankly, the greatest danger we face is from threats "real or promulgated" which result in reciprocal responses from government that could domino into problems worse than the original problem. There are elements in government who are anxious to restrict our liberties and freedoms. There are the radical fringe hoping for bad things to happen and anxious to precipitate problems. Each of these polarized factions hates and fears the other, oblivious to the fact they have become co-conspirators in an avoidable scenario in which you and I would become their victims.

Oddly, it was a liberal icon that spoke words we all need to understand and embrace. Former President John F. Kennedy noted, "Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom." Freedom never has been, and never will be free.