Column by Mark Davis.
Exclusive to STR
There's somethin' happenin' here.
What it is ain't exactly clear.
There's a man with a gun over there
A-tellin' me I've got to beware.
I think it's time we stop.
Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look what's goin' down. ~ Buffalo Springfield
What to do? When asked what to do about the predicament that I have described over the past few years, especially the Debt Madness, I typically let out an unsolicited laugh. Not out of disrespect, but out of bewilderment. The daunting task of just determining a scope within which to answer that question is very humbling. Especially when one realizes that the odds of any individual affecting meaningful change upon the whole of society are low when considering even frivolous goals. So taking on The Man that controls banking and politics (making, enforcing and judging the laws that control us) alone is a suicide mission. Further, the odds of enough voters supporting enough libertarian candidates to affect any meaningful change in the political system are very low. So, for what it’s worth, my humble answer to the question of “what to do?” is Go Thoreau. Let me explain what I mean by that.
“That government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Individual circumstances differ so much that it is not possible to offer a one-size fits all list of do’s and don’ts, which is a fundamental reason why the state is doomed to failure. Luckily, for this writer, readers here at Strike The Root already have a pretty good idea of where we are and where we are going; and also what to do to prepare for what is most likely ahead. So I will be very brief on some very important considerations, offer some links to follow for additional information and mention some ideas that need more elaboration in future articles.
Reviewing pertinent facts and analyzing obvious information can help us all start at the same spot on the path to preparation. To this end I will lay out some commonly accepted strategies so that we can each consider which combination of actions with what tweaks works best for each of us. Finally I will offer some of what I believe works best for me, which may or may not be best for you, but hopefully provide some helpful insight. Predicting future events is going out on a limb, but necessary to have some idea what to prepare for. Again, take it for what it’s worth, but start preparing by thinking seriously about it.
“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” ~ Louis Pasteur
First, we need to get our minds right. The way I see it is that we should be looking at this as an in question instead of an about question. That is: “What do we do about this situation?” Vs. “What do we do in this situation?” The about perspective implies an answer that seeks some way to correct the circumstances of our predicament. The in perspective implies an answer that seeks ways to prepare for the inevitable consequences of our predicament. The first offers hope and plays to our vanity; the second requires humility and appeals to our survival instinct; both are strong urges. I look to Thoreau for inspiration here. This is why I still must hope for a change in circumstances while dealing with what is in front of me. The age-old proverb still holds true: “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
The financial-military-political complex-induced tsunami of debt, consumer spending, bank bailouts, show elections and serial wars around the globe are not within most people’s sphere of influence. A small circle of old banking families keep a virtual monopoly on political influence in order to maintain their license to steal (fractional reserve banking). Of course they must, because they have a heavily vested interest in the law sanctioning their fraud and theft. The thing is, there’s nothing you and I can do about what those greedy bastards are doing to our society through the political-state apparatus that has nearly crushed the life out of what’s left in our once vibrant free-society. So, in my view, we must get prepared for what’s coming by strengthening what’s left of free society, starting with the smallest social units.
Strengthening free society starts with strengthening and expanding our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, people we work with and people we trade with. Isn’t that most of what’s good in our lives? Also look to join networks with like-minded people such as gardening clubs, gun clubs, book clubs, bartering associations, or hanging out with coin collectors and local brewers. Forget about political parties and rallies that sap your time and resources. This will improve the quality of all our lives whether the world turns all rosy or the world ends on 12/21/12.
Next we must determine the most likely scenarios to prepare for and then assign some likely probabilities to each in order to ration available resources most efficiently. Three general categories that are easy to work with are best, most probable and worst case scenarios. I’ll start with a projected best case, then look at the worst case and finally offer up my most probable case scenario.
The best case scenario would be that Ron Paul gets elected to the Presidency along with a whole bunch of liberty-minded political mavericks who clean up the Imperial Federal Government (IFG) by actually following the Constitution, bring home the troops, fire the Fed, end the Drug War, and slash the budget. Initiate a program of shutting down the enormous apparatus that is the state starting with the IRS, Homeland Security and the CIA. Then, sell off all the IFG’s property and finally set us free to deal with more local tyrants with momentum going freedom’s way. Any of that is likely impossible, but so is the American electorate choosing individual freedom over political slavery.
I do think that Dr. Paul will again surpass expectations and scare the hell out of The Man and his educating millions more people will grow the remnant, which is a noble quest. But for me, I’m not betting on a reversal of the long-time trend where the IFG gets bigger, costs more and screws with my life more. A realistic best-case scenario would be the IFG going bankrupt ala the USSR/East Germany model. This disruption would result in significant short-term upheaval though. I’d give the chances of a political movement reining in the elite powers-that-be enough to just lighten the yoke a bit at less than 1%. I’d give the chances of the IFG going bankrupt in the next five years at about 20%, in ten years at 50% and in 20 years at about 80%. It’s just a matter of time.
If you are a hopeless dreamer and want to preserve the state, then go all in and help try to get Ron Paul elected. I consider this a waste of time and resources that is a naïve exercise in propping up the state, but I know many cannot break free from a lifetime of being conditioned by state influence.
The worst-case scenario is the end of the world on 12/21/12 or sometime thereabouts. Complete destruction or perhaps something akin to Mad Max craziness. I find the alignment of the local heavenly bodies with the center of the universe interesting to ponder and we may get one hell of a high tide that day, but I don’t see any physical reason that the world should end. As for the Mayan calendar that ends on that day, it is like someone found a calendar that ends on December 31, 2011 and thinks that date must be the end of the world. Calendars must end somewhere. (The truly amazing thing to me is that these ancients were able to be so accurate in creating a calendar without any telescopes, computers or other improvements to the naked eye and calculating power of raw human faculties.) More likely is a world financial collapse, war with Iran and/or China or a false flag attack using a nuclear device that strengthens the state for one last big push for total control of society. This will result in our last liberties being taken away along with most of our paychecks. Young people will be kidnapped by the state and forced to kill or die for political slogans and lies. I’d give the chances of a world financial collapse, war with Iran and/or China or a false flag attack happening at about 25% in the next five years and 50% in the next ten years.
If you are a nihilistic doom and gloomer who is sure the end is near, then run up the credit cards and party ‘til you puke. This is very risky though, because if you wake up on 12/22/12 with the repo man knocking on your door, you could be in for some sobering times. The other more likely catastrophic events can be dealt with more responsibly.
Now for my brief humble estimate of what I believe is the most likely scenario to prepare for. I’m more positive about the economy over the next five years than most people I’ve read about or talked too. I see the real estate market in Florida turning around and trade increasing. Tourism and hospitality are doing well already in spite of rising fuel costs. Check out the great deals. It will still be a couple years before new construction picks up significantly, but renovation projects are slowly starting to prime the pump for the tradesmen and suppliers. People will start moving to Florida again, especially foreigners, lots of foreigners. Agriculture is still about 10% of the economy and doing well. I can read about other markets in other parts of the country, but I have no “feel” for them like I do where I live and work. Still I find it hard to believe that Florida, which was one of the hardest hit areas in the bust, is unique in its entrepreneurial spirit and resurgence of small investor optimism. If so, it will still likely spread and grow as profits are made buying cheap and renting dear.
Economists, even Austrian economists who “get it” better than all the rest, tend to underestimate the gumption and ingenuity of the common man during tough times. People have had five years to adjust, and we are getting our footing in spite of the politicians and central planners. Housing, retail stores, offices, warehouses and lots of other properties can be purchased for significantly less than the costs to build new, and current rental rates provide a good return on investments at these low prices. This indicates that we are at, or probably past, the bottom and now it is more a question of how fast and how soon will real estate prices in general rise. The old adage that “you make your money on the front end” is true.
This is a great time to buy real estate, but you need cash. Cash investors will kick-start the “little credit engine that could” when banks start loaning money to these small investors who prove they can service their loans from the cash flows generated by rent payments. This will allow them to further invest in cleaning up the huge backload of distressed properties. Finally the big boys will want in on the action. All that money the Federal Reserve has been printing, digitizing and laundering will finally start getting “multiplied.” This will create the conditions for new start-up businesses and employment growth. Then watch out for the lurking price-inflation monster sticking his big, ugly head out of its cave.
Unfortunately, the wrong lessons will likely be learned, again. The Keynesian court economists and advisors will crow that their policies worked and the Austrians’ gloom and doom predictions proved their theories to be wrong. Obama will be hailed as the Second Coming of FDR and during his second term, he will be sainted by the mainstream media morons for having “saved” capitalism from itself, again. This will provide the clarion call for more government regulations and central planning designs. The politicians always take the credit when the people prevail over their idiotic schemes and blame the people when they don’t. Misplaced faith in experts, regulation, socialism and the state in general will have a resurgence of popularity even as more people see through the propaganda because of the Internet.
The divide between statists and libertarians will grow. Statists will become more arrogant in their belief that economic power comes from the barrel of a gun purchased by printing press money even while libertarians become increasingly bold in their faith that economic power comes from liberty supported by hard work, innovation and trade. Basically a continuation of the past 100 years’ trend that accelerated about 25 years ago is coming to a head. But the Titanic took a long time to sink and so will the IFG. I give it another 15 to 20 years.
So, in summary, I project a slowly improving economy over the next two to five years, enough to get Obama reelected and canonized, followed by the Mother of All Booms over the following four to ten years. In 10 to 20 years I see increasing state expansion, domestically and internationally, but with more people resisting that expansion. Something has to give. Debt will continue to grow until interest payments overwhelm our ability to make more money, again. Paranoia, cowardice and authoritarianism will continue to consume statists as they submit to the increasing power of international institutions like the U.N., World Bank and IMF, while libertarians build an underground free society ready to step forward when the state finally collapses after a Crack-Up Boom.
Some think that a boom can’t happen again so quickly in spite of the history of repeated booms and busts. Remember that most people think booms are “normal” and busts “aberrant.” Most also think the state can competently “manage” the economy and Ben Bernanke is a genius. They don’t realize that we should fear the boom more than the bust. I do think there are many more people who will not get fooled again and be prepared for the next “big one.” Hopefully more than a few of us can get rich with this knowledge if we apply it productively in a timely manner. The worst thing is that young people and the unemployed with no skills will continue to suffer the most. Retiring boomers relying on government checks, bankrupt pensions and fixed income annuities will also be devastated by inflation.
So what’s the big deal? Looks like some decent sailing ahead, eh? Well, kind of, for a while, for some. More like the lull before the storm for most. My main point is that I think we have more time to prepare for financial collapse than is generally believed, but not enough to take improving apparent economic conditions for granted. There are also a number of Black Swan events lurking in the shadows, both man-made (e.g. war) and natural (e.g. storms).
Freedom can’t be forced on people. Sure a state’s military can invade a country and “allow” them to hold elections in order to choose representatives that will turn around and tax them while telling them what to do and how to live. But that’s not freedom (most call it democracy). Freedom is where an individual has ownership of their person, and liberty includes the fruits of their labor in that equation. Ultimately liberty is respect for individual property rights. In a world of scarcity, a sustainable civilization must be built on a foundation of liberty. In order to prepare civilization for a post-state world, we must first prepare ourselves along with the small social units that we “belong to” such as families, friends and neighbors. Being anti-state isn’t an end we seek; it is simply the modern manifestation of being pro-freedom. The end is freedom for those who want it and the means is liberty for all.
Thoreau had the presence of mind to look ahead and be patient while living life on his own terms. I propose that we look to this great American for inspiration: taking stock of our principles, our responsibilities and our actions. Civilization was originally built one relationship at a time, and that is how we must rebuild our civilization. The state has wreaked havoc on our relationships as it has forcefully undermined the family unit, communities, charity, brotherhood, churches and other personal arrangements most individuals desire and form voluntarily. Even a family must choose to stay together for it to persevere. The state seeks to not just supersede all of your other social relationships, it seeks to replace them. The state is a model for the Borg (for you Star Trek fans), but resistance is not futile.
"People only see what they are prepared to see." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The purpose of this article was primarily to get readers to consider what’s coming up the road in order to prepare for it. But I want to also leave a few basic tangible ideas that anyone can do that will help them survive a broad range of potential futures and to get going on preparing for them. I hope to write follow-up articles on these and other subjects such as seasteading and going off the grid over the next year.
I probably don’t need to mention this to many readers, but keep educating yourself on free-market ideas for getting along with others and the philosophy of liberty. In addition to the general range of information provided on sites like Strike The Root, an increasing number of specialized websites are popping up every day. For instance, this site has some great tips and is actively creating groups around the country for the barter of goods and services. This site is dedicated to preparing for economic collapse. Here is a blog dedicated to providing helpful survival tips. There are many others that appeal to a wide range of people with different attitudes and available resources.
Learn a productive skill. Find something you like to do that produces something useful. Such as brewing homemade beer or spirits, beekeeping, auto or small engine repair, how to build electric generators, recycle fuel, fishing, hunting, animal husbandry, playing a musical instrument or pole dancing. Take stock of your talents and interests and develop them with an eye toward having marketable skills that can be traded in a local economy.
Start a food garden in your yard or on your patio. How many times have you thought of doing this? Or read or heard someone suggest it and you said, “Yea, right, I don’t have the time”? When I was a kid growing up in a small town, almost everyone I knew had a garden, yet I put it off for years and now can’t believe that I was so lazy, because it truly is liberating. After a couple hours of initial set up (for a fairly large plot) it only takes a few minutes a day for watering, weeding and occasional harvesting. You can eventually skip a few days here and there, especially when it rains. My family has had entire meals with everything coming from our garden and most meals have at least one homegrown food included. Even if you start out only growing tomatoes in a pot on your patio, get started. Stock up on some seeds and expand to greens, beans, peppers, radishes, spices, etc. Grow what you like to eat. You will find the process is a soothing psychological as well as mild physical exercise. Gardening food is good for the soul.
Buy some silver and gold (or copper or platinum or palladium, etc.). Again, you’ve probably heard this a million times and hopefully have already started purchasing at least small amounts of these precious metals that have historically been used as money. Silver is still cheap and gold is going higher if you can afford it. At the very least, they are money insurance. Even if you just buy two or three silver coins every paycheck, get started. Also consider stockpiling useful, non-perishable items such as tools, baking soda, guitar strings, car parts, canned foods, dry goods or whatever is on sale that may come in handy for use or barter that you can store. It will help you sleep at night that you are “doing something” to protect against a financial system meltdown.
Buy a gun, stock up on ammunition and learn how to use it if you don’t already. Then get some more guns. They are like tools for different jobs: a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun are like a screwdriver, a pair of pliers and a hammer. Learn how to use them all and have fun doing it. There are some great networking opportunities with gun clubs, firing ranges and training centers. For example, here is a great way to take your family on vacation to Florida and teach them all firearm safety and how to shoot in a relaxing atmosphere. I intend to check out their courses with my family and write a review this fall. Of course there are also an abundance of local ranges and shops in every community if you just look. Here is an organization that puts on weekend events all over the country. This will instill confidence in your ability to provide security for your family and home.
I hope this essay was worth something to you and at least sparked enough gumption to seize control of your life path. Don’t let the simplicity turn you off because nothing is ever easy that results in meaningful change. And there is no silver bullet. But just because the majority of people will likely continue to prepare for the future by trusting central planners as they sit on their asses watching television deciding who to vote for, it doesn’t mean we are all doomed. When the schemes of politicians and central planners fail miserably, you can keep worshiping at the voting booth shrine or you can be one of the growing millions in the remnant society to have prepared for the obvious coming collapse of the archaic, inherently corrupt financial and political institutions. When enough of us are prepared, we will truly have a golden opportunity to have the best government of all: self-government. So stop worrying, get prepared and spread the word.