Letter Re: You Don’t Need To Be A Conservative To Be Prepared

Anyone who spends any amount of time on survivalist and preparedness oriented forums knows that a certain political worldview is the most commonly encountered perspective, particularly with respect to economic concerns. Particularly in the literary niche that is survivalist/preparedness fiction, the protagonist is often identified as a conservative critic of Keynesian economic thought and favors the gold standard. Very often the plot presupposes a very right-wing political orientation. Matthew Bracken (Enemies Foreign and Domestic), Thomas Sherry (Deep Winter, Shatter), Glen Tate (299 Days), and even James Wesley Rawles (Patriots) all share to some degree this worldview. Some authors even make efforts to settle scores with Democrats and liberals. I enjoyed all those books, and authors certainly have the right to write whatever they want. However, fiction serves a valuable role in outreach and education (not to mention entertainment!), and I think that it may useful to remember that being a card carrying member of the political right is not a requirement to be a survivalist. There is nothing inherently political about wanting to guarantee the health and safety of your family. You don’t need to be a conservative in the Austrian school of economics to want to be prepared.

Government Might Not Help You

Both the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party protest movements share a common jaundiced eye toward the motives of government. Whether the criticism comes from the right or the left, it is not unreasonable to worry that the most powerful people in this country, or the world, don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind.

There seems to be a perception that rich bankers and the political elite all seem to eventually hold some fraction of their wealth in precious minerals and mountain retreats. Perhaps they have peeled back the curtain and have seen the fragility of modern civilization. Or perhaps it is just prudent for the super wealthy to take some small percent of their vast wealth and put it to work as a hedge against the most extreme of dangers. After all, gold is pretty and so are the mountains of Montana and New Zealand. Either way, whether through special insight or just good planning, many powerful people are preparing for something. That just makes it all the more likely that if a true danger does appear, they have the ability to escape. That mere possibility of escape means that if comes time to navigate through rough seas, the normal captains at the helm may already be lowering their private life rafts.

Even If “They” Have Every Intention Of Preventing Collapse, They May Miscalculate

You don’t even need to be a cynic about government to want to prepare for trouble. Maybe the power brokers and elites that run the country do have the best interest of you in mind. After all, collapse and disorder are not the ideal methods to accumulating wealth and power. It would be far better to own a small slice of an enormous pie than control a larger slice of a shrinking post-collapse society. Even if the people who man the levers of the economy really are evil geniuses, it is probably in their best interest to keep the entire system perpetuating. But even evil geniuses are people, and people make mistakes.

Many survivalists and authors of survivalists worry about the fiat money system and favor the gold or silver standard. It is entirely plausible that the economic growth and innovation of the last 75 years is attributable to having abandoned the gold standard to the dustbin of history. Maybe fiat money and central banking is a bit like what Churchill said about democracy, it could be the worst form of economic underpinnings except for all those others that have been tried. Certainly inflation, disinflation, and jolting business cycles were well known when the world ran on specie.

The 2008/2009 banking crisis and resulting government intervention was a scary event. Yet some thousand plus days later the wheels of trade are again more or less functional. Nobody should ever wish for a collapse, even if it like the grasshopper, you may think eventually those unprepared are due a comeuppance. If Bernanke was able to patch things together and pull off a last second save of modern civilization, he should be hailed as a hero, not pilloried. However, the fact that a last second save was even necessary should give you pause.

Even if you favor central banking, government backing of the savings and loans industry, and quantitative easement, the fact that it is a human at the lever that makes sure these functions help the economy should give you pause. The most powerful could be evil geniuses plotting every move, or perhaps even scarier, they are just people. Keynes – whose economic ideas are so often the target of the right and many survivalists – was fearful of the impact that “animal spirits” could have on the economy. The spontaneous urge to action unchecked by quantitative benefits or probabilities will always be a core potential risk in society. Even those who politically view government as having an important role in curbing the animal spirits should not ignore the very threats that modern Keynesians argue justify the Federal Reserve.

Other Concerns

Certainly the left offers other justifications for preparedness. Many on the left are concerned about the environment and sustainable ecology. And of course, plagues, nuclear terrorism, meteors, super volcanoes, various peak theories, earthquakes, and weather crises are all apolitical. – Anonymous