Letter Re: A Prepper Goes to College

S. John’s article on higher education generated some great responses, many of which urged careful attention to choosing an area of study that would be of practical use if/when TSHTF, engineering, medicine or nursing rather than law, English, sociology or political science.  I couldn’t agree more that practical skills will be needed.   In spite of the general disrepute in which lawyers are held, however, I’d like to suggest that law is and will always be a practical skill.

If I claimed that 90% (or even 95%) of all knowledge in the field of medicine has been acquired in the last 200 years, I doubt anyone would find that surprising.  In a true collapse scenario, how much of that knowledge will still be practical?   Much of it depends on supplies, equipment and medications that will simply not be available, at least in the short run, but maybe forever.  However, what does remain practical will be much more accurate and useful than what was known 200 years ago.   Many of the basic principles of today’s medicine were unknown back then.   In fact, in case of illness or injury, you’d probably be safer today in the hands of a reasonably well-read layperson with a well-stocked medicine cabinet than in the care of a doctor and hospital from the 1810s.

On the other hand, if a time-traveling lawyer from Abe Lincoln’s era were dropped into the middle of a modern courtroom, after recovering from the shock of the modern technology of law and the presence of women, he would find most of the basic principles familiar.  After all, commercial and property transactions and dispute resolution have been going on for thousands of years, and the law has been distilling its wisdom on how to deal with such transactions all along.   The modern emphasis in media law on crime, civil rights, governmental regulation, and personal injury masks the reality that most law most people see and touch in daily life is commercial law.   It is just so thoroughly integrated in our daily lives that we don’t notice it. 

A good engineer may be able to build a bridge that will stand up to the traffic on it, but either a warrior’s skills or a lawyer’s skills will be needed to make sure the bridge is built on land whose owner won’t just tear it down again.   Throughout human history, that’s what lawyers have done – found ways and developed systems that substitute contracts for wars, so that human ingenuity can be harnessed through commerce and its fruits can be made more secure.  That’s not to say warriors can be dispensed with.  There will always be those who breach contracts, break laws and try to get their way through force or fraud.  Warriors will be needed on the front lines to stop them, capture them and compel them to submit to the law.

A good lawyer has a base of knowledge on how to identify and solve problems that has been distilled over more than two thousand years of human trial and error.   Ironically, preppers are among the people most like lawyers in their thought processes:   Both think beyond the expectation that tomorrow will be just like today, that the sailing will always be smooth; they think about all the things that could go wrong and then try to plan and prepare for them.

Everyone who does attend college would be well advised to take a basic course in legal principles, especially one with a focus on commercial principles.   Whether or not TSHTF, knowing what is involved in making contracts and learning how to read and think about them is a “survival skill” for life.

Having said that, I’m not sure modern legal education is as focused as it used to be on transmitting and refining that base of knowledge.   The mailings I get from my old law school suggest the focus has changed to one of training do-gooders, challenging “privilege” and implementing “social justice.”  – Anonymous Attorney