Prepper’s Financial Guide
Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 2015
Disaster preparation is a difficult topic. There are some entry-level items, such as what outdoor survival supplies should go into a “bug-out bag” which might be needed in short notice for a long hike in very uncertain conditions. However, beyond the “101” level stuff, things get complicated pretty quickly. Much boils down to one’s budget — preparations can get expensive, to say the least — as well as one’s personal circumstances.
There are answers, but there is no “one size fits all” approach to being a survivalist. What sort of disaster will be anticipated is a big question. Should one build a fallout shelter, get a horse and buggy, buy ammo like it’s going out of style, or stock up on holy water? Is this to get you through a few rough months, or a permanent return to the Middle Ages?
More seriously, this year showed us some examples. Early on, thermometers, hand sanitizers, and cleaning supplies disappeared from store shelves, for obvious reasons. Food went quickly too. I already have an adequate supply of dry goods, so that at least got me some peace of mind while the supply chain went shaky. As vibrancy kicked into high gear midyear, gun sales went through the roof. One might also guess that toilet paper could become a future gold standard if things really were to get bad. These were reactive measures; it’s better to be ready before shortages and the inevitable price gouging arrive.
Fortunately, there are resources to help one wade through the difficult decisions involved in achieving readiness. One of these is Prepper’s Financial Guide by Jim Cobb, subtitled Strategies to Invest, Stockpile, and Build Security for Today and The Post Collapse Marketplace (Berkeley, Ulysses Press, 2015). It was written five years ago, but it’s starting to become timely once again! The disaster that the book is geared for doesn’t have to do with zombie hordes, space aliens, or President-For-Life Kamala Harris, but the rather more familiar terror of the economy seriously going haywire.
All told, there’s no indication of what the author’s political views might or might not be, and the book is ideologically neutral. Even silly liberals can read it and learn something without getting “triggered” by the contents. Actually, he’s achieved the remarkable; making survivalist literature universally appealing is no easy task. Many other authors write about the best ways to keep Leftists and other common pests off of our lawns in case of an emergency.
What happens in an economic collapse?
The opening chapter goes into what to expect. According to the technical definition, a garden variety recession might be merely a bear market lasting for two quarters, or even a couple of years. However, sometimes things get worse:
A depression involves a long-term downward swing in the economy. Unemployment goes up and available credit goes down. Businesses, and, occasionally, banks close up shop. Those who have money generally spend less of it, which turns the whole thing into a sort of a vicious circle. With fewer people buying goods, manufacturers sell less. This reduces their income so they need to let employees go, which means more people with less money. An economic collapse is an economic depression cranked up to eleven, with a healthy sprinkling of loan defaults, devalued currency, and reduced trade with other countries.
The author then goes into detail on four specific examples from history, describing what was happening on the national level and how these things affected the citizens. After that, it provides a picture of what could happen in a near-future scenario like that. Problems may include skyrocketing fuel prices, the credit card system shutting down, and ATMs not working. Food riots are a possibility; things like that have happened.
In the wake of a full collapse, expect riots, looting, and other instances of civil unrest. For this reason, among others, you should avoid any large assemblies of people, particularly in an urban area. Keep your head down and stay out of the way of the crowd as best you can.
I’ll concur; that’s some sensible advice! Like they say in the Big Apple: “Don’t get invuolved.”
Without trying to sound like an extremist, the thought of another civil war, this one between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” really isn’t out of the realm of possibility, should a crisis linger too long.
True indeed; and apparently the gauche caviar types haven’t been thinking too carefully when they started trying to foment a revolution lately. If events were to spiral out of their control, or if the vibrant hordes and Leftist fanatics figured out that they’ve been manipulated into being shock troops for money-grubbing billionaires, it could backfire badly. In such an instance, the sneaky globalists, “woke” hedge fund traders, media executives, Silicon Valley bugmen, and others who have been cheerleading the disorder thus far would reap the whirlwind. That will be entirely their problem, as far as I’m concerned.
All that said, I’ll have to quibble about two of the historical examples presented in the book. The Weimar Republic’s economic woes didn’t end in 1924 with the chancellorship of Gustav Stresemann. Neither does it go into the role of Marxist insurrections during those times. Things were in terrible shape until 1933 when some other fellow got into office, started cleaning house, and put Germany back to work. I think it was some famous dude. Now, what was his name again. . .?
Also, there certainly is something to the author’s description of the 2008 economic crisis, but it’s still missing a big piece. There’s much about greedy house flippers who ended up holding the bag, and it’s quite true that adjustable-rate mortgages are a sucker deal. However, it didn’t mention lawfare and government pressure forcing banks to write loans to applicants who were bad credit risks, because too many People of Color™ were getting rejected. As all good liberals know, everyone is exactly the same; therefore, unequal results always mean “institutionalized raaaacism.” Obeying The Narrative certainly is more important than having qualifications to ensure that borrowers can repay loans. (Like, what’s the worst thing that possibly could happen?) More seriously, leaving out certain highly politically incorrect details was a minor flaw. Maybe the
author’s own sources didn’t mention these things.
The next chapter discusses becoming debt-free. Even if the government spends money like a drunken sailor, this doesn’t mean you should. It’s a good point, and I’ve discussed similar measures. I’ll add some further thoughts. If you suffer a reversal of fortune, it’s better not to be too overwhelmed with bills. Even in normal times, being caught in a debt spiral is a drag. Paying credit card interest is as useful to you as feeding cash into a paper shredder every month. If you stop doing that, you’ll make a bankster cry!
As I was reading, I wondered why this would matter in a scenario where banks close their doors and the credit card system stops working. (Even Karl Marx once was encouraged by growing unrest; if the Revolution he was trying to foment came to pass, then he wouldn’t have to pay his bills!) Then I realized it’s not as simple as that, and borrowers can’t count on being off the hook. Consumers will be expected to be responsible, even if the economy goes to hell because the government and big business were irresponsible.
Why is this so? Recall that during the Great Recession, the banksters came crying to the government after losing their shirts at high-stakes gambling. After all, they were “too big to fail” — such a precious turn of phrase. Instead of putting them in prison, the government paid them lavishly for fucking up, charging the tab to future generations of taxpayers. (One of the banks that I’ve been monitoring used the bailout funds to make a huge stock market play at the bottom, as well as buy out a bankrupt competitor. The bills went out without a hitch!) Congress could’ve paid off every American’s credit cards for approximately the same amount of money, which also would’ve given their creditors tremendous liquidity, but things didn’t work out that way. Count on The System protecting its own.
Later on, the chapter goes into credit reports and how to get them in order. Three private companies keep financial dossiers on the public, keyed by the almighty Soviet Security Number. Having a good credit score means being able to get more favorable interest rates. I’ll add that this is also important because credit scores often are used in employment prescreening. (Looking at it from the other side, this is another way people get kicked when they’re down.) It’s not a deep dive into the subject, but it’s definitely enough to get a reader started.
Other topics include budgeting and basic thrift. It should go without saying, but the little stuff can add up. An occasional small indulgence isn’t too bad, but it doesn’t work to have champagne tastes on a beer budget. If you find yourself sinking, then obviously you need to do something about it before things get worse. There are several tips on how to get utility bills more manageable. Other topics include food, medical care, and housing expenses. On the supply side, it discusses some side gigs that can get you extra cash.
I’ll go a step further with all this than the author — does anyone really need a cable bill or a streaming video subscription? You’re not going to die without cheap entertainment, are you? Month after month, that money goes to corporations that hate you and royalties for stuck-up Hollywood types. (I can’t even imagine what Harvey Weinstein’s residuals are.) If the public stopped paying them, they’d dry up and blow away. Seriously — don’t feed the bears! Worse, a lot of movies and TV shows are meant to demoralize and indoctrinate you. Even the advertisements are pozzed beyond belief. I can’t say it enough — get the propaganda needle out of your arm! If you’re so inclined, you can use the extra money toward political causes that support your people and your way of life. How about us?
Money, money, money
The third chapter goes into some basic economic principles. Money is valuable because people treat it as such, even if it’s really just a piece of paper. Trade goods have been a medium of exchange as well, and these also have a certain intrinsic value because of their usefulness. Problems arise, of course, if governments print cash like there’s no tomorrow, which is always a bad sign. On the other hand, if money became too scarce (nobody had it, or was willing to spend it) then the system breaks down in a different way.
If something happens to a country’s official currency, what then? In some cases, foreign currency fills in the role. A discussion follows concerning alternatives to the US dollar. (To me, it seems unlikely that they’d become a widespread alternative in the USA, though they may be suitable as investments. Anyway, be careful before trading all your spare cash for Triskelion quatloos or whatever.) Cryptocurrencies are another alternative. It’s an interesting development, but volatility is a major problem. Another problem is that they won’t work if the power grid goes down, or something happens to the Internet. Then it covers proper long-term storage for all those dollars, Swiss francs, Turkish lira, etc.
The next chapter concerns precious commodities. Gold gets much discussion, for pretty obvious reasons. (Looking at the chart, it can be quite a bargain during good times, worth a lot more when the economy goes to hell.) Silver is another choice, apparently with a slightly faster volatility response. Some more exotic metals are discussed too. Where to get precious metals is another important consideration, as you wouldn’t want to get ripped off. The chapter ends discussing gemstones. It might be difficult, for example, to trade a sapphire for a few cans of gas, but one never knows when bling might come in handy.
The barter system
If money is worthless or unobtainable, then trade will become increasingly important. If certain goods are in short supply and you happen to have more than you need, so much the better. First on the list are all the things that are bad for you. Tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and candy might make for some valuable trade goods. Hooch tends to have the longest shelf life. You don’t even need the fancy stuff. If you got some Andropovka in 1983 for three rubles a bottle, saved a jug of your great grandfather’s white lightning, or maybe have V2 fuel left over from the good old days, the bug juice might end up being worth quite a bit.
Then it discusses what foods will have a long shelf life. Everyone has to eat, after all, and the regular supply chains might get jammed up for a while. Heirloom seeds may be a good idea too. It also details what medical supplies you might need, which also could come in handy for trade. Hardware, hygiene products, clothing (including repair items), and other useful goods are listed as well.
Other than that, there will be certain useful skills which you could trade for goods or other services. These range from home crafts all the way up to professional trades. This could lead to community networks and permanent employment arrangements.
I’ll add to this discussion that these are things we could be doing already. Some localities do have scrip representing an hour of labor. The concept is slow to catch on, but it does have demonstrated positive benefits. Other than that, we can start producing our own goods and trading with each other. That keeps wealth circulating in the local community. We wouldn’t have to buy everything from distant corporations that are indifferent to us at best. If we could get these ideas to catch on in the globalist-blighted Rust Belt, then that could jump-start the local economy. Distributism works!
The seventh chapter discusses where to hide your goodies. Safes are nice to have, though thieves generally know where to look for them, and small ones can be carried away. It also has a good description of how burglars will toss a house, as well as the places they’re unlikely to look. Then it discusses ways to bury things. (That might come in handy, in case politicians or liberal judges monkey with the Second Amendment.) Don’t lose track of where you buried your pirate treasure!
I’ll also add that if you happen to have lots of things that go bang, bragging about it is a bad idea. Not in person, not online – just don’t! Even if you have a massive food supply, letting anyone else know can get you a lot of unwanted attention in an emergency situation. Picture someone pounding on your door, asking how you could be so heartless not to share. Word can get around, too. Being charitable is all well and good, but you may be faced with some very difficult choices. A year’s food supply for you won’t last long if you end up feeding the whole neighborhood.
The next chapter covers self-sufficiency. Gardening is a big part of that. (Too bad I’m no good at it!) Trees bearing fruit and nuts will be quite helpful. Even if you’re in an apartment or a condo, it describes ways to grow edible plants. Foraging, beekeeping, and raising animals are some other considerations. The book doesn’t take a deep dive into these subjects, but it’ll provide some good ideas on where to begin.
Solar panels, rain collection, and water wells are also covered in brief. All that is a lot of effort, of course, and can get expensive. Still, if the power goes down for a long time, or the faucets quit flowing, then everyone is going to be in a world of hurt. It’s been known to happen in major catastrophes. Fortunately, water is a fairly renewable resource, and if you’re the only one who has a working pump, then you might become the most popular kid on the block.
As a final consideration, the book describes homesteading. Not everyone can afford to get the ideal place just yet, but you can think about it for now. Having a sizeable amount of property gives you more independence than a typical suburban house. Hopefully, you’re not under the watchful gaze of a homeowner’s association. It’s no fun dealing with the Lawn Gestapo, especially if you have some ambitious agricultural projects in mind.
All told, the book is a good introduction to one facet of survival preparedness. The author, who is affiliated with Survival Weekly and Disaster Prep Consulting, also has some books covering other areas.
Now I’ll digress a bit
Economic collapses are not a new phenomenon. One early notable instance was so old that it’s in the Bible, described in the KJV translation by the quaint phrase “the money failed.” That one was partially an engineered crisis, and a little different from the sanitized version you might’ve heard in Sunday school. The Pharaoh and his consigliere Joseph milked a disaster for everything it was worth, swindled the citizens out of their property and liberty, and got away with it looking like heroes. Why does that sound so familiar?
There’s no corroborating evidence in Egyptian chronicles or anywhere else, and some elements seem quite improbable. Therefore, a skeptic might interpret all this as ancient mythology. Still, the power of a myth is in its allegorical truth. That was quite a sophisticated dialectical strategy for the Bronze Age! A sneaky advisor (much like Wormtongue) pulling strings behind the scenes, hiding behind the legitimate ruler, was a trope ahead of its time too. The basic themes presciently echo through history, all the way up to the crooked FDR administration and beyond.
During the ancient days, bad economic conditions typically occurred from natural disasters, wars, or resources drying up. These days, there are ways to capitalize on these things. Recessions (and worse) can happen a little differently lately. As Greg Johnson put it:
In an economic depression, the land does not suddenly go sterile. The udders of cows do not go dry. Men do not suddenly become stupid and lazy. The sun keeps shining; the crops keep growing; the chickens keep laying; people keep working. Goods pile up in warehouses and stores. And on the demand side, people still need to eat. But silos are bursting and people are starving because, for some mysterious reason, there is suddenly “not enough money.”
People have no money to spend, or they are afraid to part with the money they do have, because of a climate of uncertainty. After all, halfway around the world, a massive swindle has been discovered; a bank has collapsed; a speculative bubble has burst. So, naturally, back in Hooterville, stores are filled with sour milk and rotting vegetables and children are going to bed hungry.
Lately, speculative bubbles are a relatively new problem. This does have historical precedent in the Dutch tulip mania collapsing in 1637 and the South Sea Company taking a dive in 1720. These days, the boom-and-bust business cycle is considered normal for an economy driven by the stock market, but sometimes things really go belly-up. When that happens, it’s wise to make sure that you have a backup plan ahead of time.
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