Four Letters Re: Questions from A Not-Quite Convinced Reader


I was intrigued by Robert C.’s recent letter which questions why we should prepare. I think he has a great question there, and one which deserves further discussion.

I put together a personal ‘Top Five’ I’d like to share: Top Five Reasons To Be Preparedness Oriented:

5) It’s simply a natural extension of growing up — understanding and fulfilling our responsibilities. As babies we have all of our basic needs provided for us by our parents. As we mature, we all begin to take some responsibility for our own needs by doing things like getting an education; learning how to cook; learning a trade; working for money which we trade for food, shelter, and other needs; etc.

Lots of people stop in their development when they get to a point where their current personal activities interface with their current societal and cultural infrastructure in a way that meets their current needs. Part of this is their current revenue supports desired ‘quality of life’, but it’s really more than that. The problem is that current personal activities (including but not limited to career); the interface to society (including but not limited to economy, government, and society); and current needs (including but not limited to shelter, water and food) are all dynamic.

Some people experience a moment of insight during their development that says, “Hey, if xyz changes I’m going to be in trouble. I won’t be able to <fill-in-the-blank> so I had better be ready, just in case!” there this person realizes, “Wow, what else have I been taking for granted in a way that might adversely affect my ability to achieve my responsibilities?”

Preparedness living in this context is the realization that as adults, and in particular as heads of households, we must be able to provide for all the basic needs of our families without relying on preconceived assumptions about what others will provide for us.

4) Because we’re not mentally ill. We have uncontrolled wildfires at times that threaten life and property, right? Sometimes we have earthquakes, right? sometimes have tornados, right? Hurricanes? Flooding? Hard Winters? Crop failures? Food contamination? Do heavy winds sometimes knock-down power lines? Do heavy snows sometimes preclude me from driving into town to get a pizza? Do we ever have banking failures? Do we sometimes experience economic recession? Do some entire industries (like manufacturing) get ‘outsourced’ threatening job security? If I’m not mistaken we’ve had all these in the USA in just the last 10 years, right?

On a less frequent basis do cultures experience wars? Pandemics? Great Depressions? Government collapse/restructuring? Genocide? Haven’t all these happened on a world scale in the last 50 years?

To deny these things happen would be diagnostic of a mental illness. They do happen. Preparedness orientation is simply the acknowledgement of this truth, coupled with the will to act.

3) For the same reasons we wear seat belts when we drive our cars; have fire extinguishers in our kitchens; carry health insurance for ourselves and our families; and buy life insurance. It’s not that we want to be involved in motor vehicle accidents; experience kitchen fires; have medical problems; nor die young leaving a wife and children behind — we just recognize that such things are possible and seek to mitigate these dangers.

2) In the end, we will either be right — there was a need for preparedness and we were ready to face all challenges; or we will be pleasantly surprised — there was no need to prepare and live through a time of hardship. Either way, we win!

1) In obedience to God who tells us that all things will not continue as they have in the past; and that we should: Provide for our families. Arm ourselves. Not be destroyed for lack of wisdom. Keep oil in our lamps. – Keith C.


Please refer the reader back to the link you and others have posted on the Internet over the past year to “Topsoil and Civilization” : “Civilized man has marched across the face of the earth and left a desert in his footprints.” What more documented evidence should he need after that? Here’s my Cliff-notes version of the problem
and solution
(with some more useful links). – Thanks, – Chris


Hi Jim:
It seems an odd request from the poster today that he wants someone to convince him to prepare to take care of himself. He probably has never faced being unemployed? Never faced any family member of friend being unemployed? Too bad as that would have given him the understanding of how much on his own he can be. He likes to have his trash collected. In my community I have to pay the trash collection service to take away my trash. It doesn’t come for free. I have to pay for my water to come into my home. That water station uses energy and with energy costs rising — that water is going to cost more money.

Why prepare? Well, read what even the US government and the global governments are urging citizens to do to to help themselves. They are telling folks to prepare to help themselves. Hint: the government is not going to be their immediately on a white horse to bring you your groceries, haul away your trash, etc.

Any historic events to support a need for being prepared? Good grief! Has this person being residing in a cave all of his life? Where to begin — 1) The bust; 2) the current housing bust; 3) the financial bust globally in sub-primes; 4) the 1980s; 5) 1970s (stagflation); 6) WWII — goods were rationed and quality went down (read historic newspapers — you have to help educate yourself); 7) the Great Depression — shortages of food supplies (people hungry in some areas while farmers burned potatoes in other areas; droughts so bad that dust clouds rolled from Kansas all the way to Washington DC); 8) The Panic of 1907. Crawl out of under the rock and spend some time reading! – Cynthia W.


Dear Jim:
Reader Robert C. wrote: “There have been depressions before, and the fall of civilizations, but as far as I can tell, nothing on the scale of what you seem to talk about. Do you have any good historical examples I could look into?”

Well, we have been very fortunate in the US to have only experienced one “Great” Depression, and have kept all our recent wars overseas, but you don’t have to look too far abroad for examples of depressions and war that put the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse back in the saddle.

Just a few highlights:
Try living in Germany 1914 to 1945: war, famine, hyperinflation, depression, Nazi takeover, war, concentration camps, urban saturation bombing… The Russians’ 20th century looks even worse… war, Communist coup, farm “collectivization”, the forced starvation of millions, Stalin’s purges/mass murder, war, German invasion… China 1920 to 1970: civil war, Japanese invasion, Communist takeover, starvation, Mao’s purges/mass murder…

Legendary Wall Street investor Barton Biggs has a new book Wealth, War and Wisdom that reviews the horrific 20th Century and recommends that wealthy folks put perhaps 5% of their net worth in a self-sufficient farm, and stock up.

To quote “The trigger event could be a massive terrorist or nuclear attack that disrupts the economy for months and maybe for years. A power failure that lasted not a day but a month would paralyze a modern economy. Or it could be a plague, a massive SARS-like epidemic, in with hundreds of millions die, or an electronic explosion that cascades into a complete breakdown of the world’s financial accounting systems. Whatever happens, it most likely will be an event that is both unexpected and we will not be prepared for. The world is very good at locking the barn door after the horses have been stolen.”
Biggs left out EMP terrorist strikes! (By the way, read the e-novel Lights Out for a very entertaining and educational portrayal an EMP strike on the US.)

Dr Gary North’s “favorite” TEOTWAWKI disaster would be an NBC attack on banking centers designed to bring down our inherently unstable fractional reserve banking system, which would then shutdown the payment system for the division of labor that keeps us all fed. (Of course the way things are going, the terrorists might just decide that this is not really necessary, now that our political and financial elites have done such a good job of wrecking the economy…)

What are the odds? For any individual scenario, low. But as Nassim Nicholas Taleb argues persuasively, low probability statistical outlier events – “Black Swans” – are a lot more common than we think, as we are prone just extrapolate current trends ad infinitum.

Put it this way – if you were going to jump out of an airplane with just one parachute – what kind of reliability odds do you want? Is a 1% chance of a catastrophic failure
Okay? How many jumps would you make with a 1% chance of having a non-functioning parachute? None, for me! Metaphorically that’s what we do every day. or every year, our parachute being the complicated, interdependent, and fragile systems that keep us alive… until an unforeseen Black Swan event comes up.

My intuition tells me the ongoing increase in government taxation and regulation, the decline of moral standards, educational standards, and the increasing complexity and interdependency of the economy makes it even more likely that a disaster would cascade into chaos. Even “just” a rerun of the Great Depression would be likely to turn into something much more horrible with our current society…. Noted investor Doug Casey forecasts what he calls a “Greater Depression”.

It’s seems very prudent to me to have some catastrophe insurance. Don’t spend your whole life, or all your money on it. But do get some, because our Black Swan event is out there – we just don’t know when it’s going to show up. Regards, – OSOM