Investing Philosophy + Free Economic Newsletters and Websites

You may have noticed that I only write sparingly about economics and investing. I do follow economic trends closely, but I don’t consider myself an expert. If you want to categorize me, then you could say that I fall into the “Guns and Groceries” school of survivalism rather than the “Krugerrands and Plane Tickets to Offshore Havens” school. My current advice is fairly terse: Concentrate on buying tangibles. (Namely: productive farm land, storage food, practical tools, guns, and common caliber ammunition.) Then after you have your retreat fully squared away with logistics, it is time to consider buying some gold and silver. For the record: I consider gold at anything under $500 an ounce and silver at anything under $8 an ounce as genuine bargains. In the long term the dollar and all other paper currencies will be relegated to their proper use, as kindling. The other reason that I don’t write voluminously about the markets and investing because these topics are already well covered at a variety of great “hard money”-oriented web sites. For commentary and analysis, my favorite of these sites is So for me to add my (pre-’64) $0.10 worth would just be redundant.

Part of my daily routine is reading economics newsletters. Parenthetically, you can subscribe to many of these e-mail newsletters free of charge. Some have daily issues while others are e-mailed weekly. These include: The Daily Reckoning and its sister publication The Rude Awakening, Whiskey and Gunpowder, The Sovereign Society Offshore A-Letter, What We Know Now (from Casey Research), and Dr. Gary’s North’s Reality Check. If you have the time to do some reading, then I highly recommend all of these newsletters! But if your time is limited and you need to pick just one, then make it The Daily Reckoning.

Note from JWR:

You will notice that there are several new advertisements in our scrolling “ad bar.” And even more ads will be posted there in the next few days. Vendors have gradually come to the realization that SurvivalBlog is the place to be to attract customers! Some advertising space is still available at our low rates, but be advised that there will be a rate increase on October 1st. This is the “last call” to lock in an ad contract (for up to six months) at the current rates.

Today, I’m covering Washington, the 18th of 19 western states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential. This series will be followed by some detailed recommendations within these 19 western states. I’d also appreciate hearing from easterners with their specific recommendations.

State By State – Washington

Population: 5.9 million.
Population Density: 86.6 per square mile (Far less in the eastern half of the state!) Very high population density (by western U.S. standards.) (Rank 3 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 68,100 square miles (rank 20 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $803/yr. (rank 19 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $428/yr. (rank 31 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 30 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 57%.
Per capita income: $31,230 (rank 11 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 10 of 50 (tied with Oregon).
Plusses: Low property taxes in some of the eastern counties. (But rising!)
Whitman county Washington taxes rose 80% from 1988 to 1995. In 2002,
the annual tax bill was $3,047 on a $200,000 home. (Second highest in the state.)
The median home value in 2000 for Washington was $168,300, up 38 percent
since 1990, adjusted for inflation. The average statewide property tax rate in Washington is $13.53 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Minuses: Creeping Californication. Highly regulated home schooling. Fairly high crime rates in the Western counties and in the larger cities in the eastern half of the state—such as Spokane, Yakima, and the Tri-Cities (Richland/Pasco/Kennewick) region. A draconian business gross receipts tax of 1.5%-to-3%. Marginal gun laws. Very high sales tax. (8.8%)
Parts of the state are recommended. (See my detailed retreat locale recommendations posted starting September 24, 2005.)
Note: I probably should have given Washington a lower ranking, due to its mediocre tax and gun laws. However, like Oregon, its favorable climate and growing season pushed it up the list.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 4 of 19.

A Reader in Washington Adds:
Just a few nits to pick (grin), RE: “A draconian business gross receipts tax of 2-to-3%. Marginal gun laws. Very high sales tax. (8.8%)”
Can’t disagree with draconian. Can disagree with the B&O rates, slightly. They depend completely on the type of business. My business is taxed at 1.5%.
Sales taxes vary per county over a very wide range.
Gas tax is $0.28 per gallon.
Just for fun, check out this link for “major” taxes in the Evergreen state. Yikes.
There are also more than a few badges (not obvious, but there nonetheless if you know what to look for) at our local gun shows at the County fairgrounds. Keeping an eye on who, what, and how much. Not particularly comfortable about that one. Best Regards, and keep up the good work. – T.S.

From The Memsahib–Moving Back to the Land, “Successfully”

In the 1970s there was a well-publicized “Back to the Land” movement. Hundreds of thousands of America’s young generation wanted the freedom of self-sufficiency. But most of them eventually returned to urban life. We can analyze their failures to avoid making the same mistakes. Happily, someone else has already done this for us! Eleanor Agnew’s book Back From the Land is a fairly detailed analysis of why the “Back to the Landers” went back to the big cities. Here is a summary of some of the conditions that led to their failures:

1. The realities of rural life were much harsher than those portrayed on television or in popular books or magazines.
2. Farming and raising livestock was not profitable, so they either lived in extreme poverty or had long commutes to jobs in town.
3. Local “town” jobs were low paying.
4. Poverty was not as genteel and romantic as portrayed in books and movies.
5. The harsh realities of rural life put undue stress on marriages, especially when the spouses were not in agreement about living self-sufficiently.

We moved to Idaho in 1992. I observed all of these conditions among our neighbors who moved to rural Idaho in preparation for Y2K in 1998 and 1999. (Yep, we experienced a couple of these ourselves, as much as I hate to admit it!)

In our part of rural Idaho, we observed that the vast majority of families that departed post Y2K left for economic reasons. Most of the local jobs available were minimum wage. The local economy was depressed. Start-up businesses that required the patronage of the local population failed.

Suggestion: Make sure that your income does not rely on the local economy and that you will have enough income to sustain a standard of living not too far below your urban standard. If the drop in your living standards are too drastic, your spouse and children are likely to rebel. Even though you may be preparing for a time in the future when the grid is down, and you’ll have to be totally self-sufficient, don’t insist that your spouse do without the modern conveniences in the meantime. (Okay, maybe the washer and dryer are going to be giant paper weights if the balloon goes up. But I don’t want to start washing clothes by hand one day sooner than I have too!) If you make life drudgery for your family, the contrast of how the rest of America lives will be so great that they may question your sanity!

Eleanor Agnew’s Back From the Land tells it like it really is. If you are contemplating a move back to the land, you should read this book!

Back From the Land by Eleanor Agnew, Published by Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 200. Hardback, 274 pages. Cover price: $27.50 ISBN 1-56663-580-2

Letter Re: JRH Enterprises Recommendation and PVS-14 Belt Hard Case

Just a recommendation for Robert Henry of JRH Enterprises and his wife. Good man, dependable and fair. His merchandise is always a good product.
Whenever I’ve dealt with him, I can only say it was “always a pleasure”.

Oh, for your PVS-14, they finally came out with something handy and servicable.For $44 U.S. Tactical sells PVS-14 hard case for your belt. Fits with the mounting arm attached and has capacity for two spare AA size batteries. I’ll let you know how well it lives. Regards, – The Army Aviator

Letter Re: Doug Carlton’s Article on Concealed Carry

Letter Re: Doug Carlton’s Article on Concealed Carry (SAs: CCW, Holsters, Survival Guns, Survival Mindset, Firearms Training)

Greetings Jim,
Thanks for an outstanding blog–it is on my “must read” list everyday. Doug Carlton’s article on concealed carry is right on target. One of his best points is to practice the way you carry. I try to do this often to hone my skills. Being a practicing pharmacist I am exposed to all kinds of people. The ones that concern me are the thugs/pill heads/stop-‘n-rob types whose desperation has risen to new heights. But, I do have the luxury of wearing a white lab jacket while working, which nicely conceals my carry piece from prying eyes. I routinely practice drawing from concealment with my lab coat on to simulate a work-place encounter of the worse kind. I’ve never had to unholster my weapon, but you just never know. My philosophy is “They need only be right ONCE, I have to be right EVERY TIME”. One other point I might add is to keep the fact that you carry concealed (especially in the workplace) to yourself. No one else needs to know. Keep up the fine work! – S.P.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“Our institutions were not devised to bring about uniformity of opinion; if they had we might well abandon hope. It is important to remember, as has well been said, ‘the essential characteristic of true liberty is that under its shelter many different types of life and character and opinion and belief can develop unmolested and unobstructed.”
– Justice Charles Evans Hughes

Note from JWR:

Please pray for all those living on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Hurricane Rita looks fearsome! Most of you have surely already done so, but don’t neglect to stock up on fuel. (Fill your gas and diesel storage tanks, fill all you car/truck tanks, and order a “top off” of your propane and/or home heating oil tanks.) I predict that there will be widespread fuel shortages after Rita does her damage. OBTW, the PRI-G and PRI-D stabilizers are available from Ready Made Resources (RMR) and several other vendors.

Today, I’m covering Utah, the 17th of 19 western states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential.

State By State – Utah

Population: 2.23 million.
Population Density: 26.2 per square mile (Rank 11 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 84,900 square miles (rank 11 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $718/yr. (rank 32 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $378/yr. (rank 43 of 50.)
Crime Safety Ranking: 14 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 76%.
Per capita income: $23,436 (rank 44 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 7 of 50.
Plusses: A great state to live in if you are a LDS (Mormon) Church member. On average Utah has the best prepared families in America. (By church doctrine, one year of food storage is considered mandatory.) That is commendable. The norm for home construction in the state is to include an extra large pantry to accommodate storage food. (Commonly called a “fruit room” in LDS parlance.) Nearly every LDS ward has its own food storage cannery. Fairly low crime rate. (Utah has two of the safest metropolitan areas in the country: Orem, ranked #7, and Provo, ranked #9.) The only significant street crime is on the west side of Salt Lake City. Low car insurance rates.
Minuses: Ground water is scarce in parts of the state, so check on well water before buying. Utah might be a poor retreat/relocation choice if you are not a LDS Church member. Non-LDS members of any religious persuasion are derisively called “gentiles.” If you are not LDS, you might be ignored or perhaps even seen as conveniently expendable when push comes to shove. In practice, many LDS families do not have a true full year of storage food. Highly regulated home schooling.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 6 of 19.

Letter Re: Idaho and Montana

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Having read your retreat advice I’m planning a road trip through Montana and Idaho for November to scout around for a new home and maybe a new job (I’m a high school history teacher). Still, I can’t help but wonder: with the increasing profile of the blog and its ever-greater circulation, won’t greater numbers of survival-minded people moving to the ID/MT area degrade its qualities and reduce it to the same mess we’re all trying to escape/avoid? I got to thinking that when an Idaho resident & survivalist online told me, “Don’t come here, we don’t want you people. Idaho is full.” Anyway, love the blog and now two other teachers in my department read it, too. Take care and may our God bless you & your family. Sincerely yours, – S.P.

JWR Replies: I seriously doubt that more than a few hundred or perhaps a thousand people will ever make a move based on what they read at SurvivalBlog. (Most folks are 99% talk and 1% action.) But even if a substantial number do make the move, they will be the kind of folks that you will want as neighbors. With deep larders, copious heirloom variety gardening seed, extensive first aid supplies, advanced commo gear, livestock, and plenty of useful tools, they will be valuable assets to the community.

Letter from David Crawford Re: EMP-Proofing and Other Nuke Preparations

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Congratulations on your successful Web Log. I suspect that you will soon be counting your unique hits by the million instead of the thousand. I was very pleasantly surprised to see the mention of my novel, “Lights Out”, on your Blog today. It was fitting that you reviewed Texas, my home state, as well on this day. I must tell you that my writing was largely inspired by “Patriots“. I have two copies and the first has been read so many times that it is now held together by rubber bands. “Patriots” is the ultimate ‘How-to’ novel and an absolute must have for the serious survivalist. I look forward to the next edition with the additional chapters. I started writing “Lights Out” in August of 2002. It has been a labor of love. I am working on the last two or three chapters right now and hope to have them posted in the next few weeks. The link you provided only contains the first twenty chapters of the novel. All of the current 73 chapters are available in Frugal’s Forums in the Patriot Fiction section. However, each chapter is a separate post and it is difficult to track them all down. For a new reader, I would suggest this site: This reader is graciously hosting the story in both PDF and text formats. I appreciate comments, good and bad, from readers. At this point, feedback is the only payment I receive for the work. Please send them to and put “Lights Out” in the subject. Once I finish the first draft, I plan to go back and clean up the story line and then look for a publisher. I realize that publishing is a long shot. Any advice you can give me would be greatly valued. Thank you. – D.C.

Letter Re: Which Guns for Barter?

Having extra food and water and other goods to barter with is a good idea, but do you think bartering with your guns and ammo is. During a TEOTWAWKI scenario, I think the last thing you need to do is to put more guns and ammo out in the streets, no matter if you know the people you bartering with or not. The same ammo and guns you barter with may be the same guns and ammo that could be turned against you and your family. There are only a handful of my friends and family that has even fired a firearm let alone train with them and really know how to handle a gun. Where do you draw the line on who you barter guns and ammo with and who you don’t. I am not a heartless person but I am going to be damn limited on who I arm with my ammo and guns. – S.D.

JWR Replies: If your planned retreat is in an area where you cannot trust your neighbors with firearms, then you might want to re-think that retreat location! Look more along the lines of Montana or Wyoming, where virtually everyone knows how to shoot. Guns in the hands of your neighbors shouldn’t be a potential looting problem–they should be the solution! I would not sleep well in a YOYO situation. Instead, give me a few trustworthy neighbors that are within line of sight–for mutually-supporting fields of fire. If they don’t already own capable battle rifles, then I’ll gladly provide them!

Letter From “Mrs. Golf” Re: South Dakota

Having just left South Dakota after 16 years there, I might add concerning the cold and short growing season: 20 below for weeks on end, pretty hefty wind on top of that, and a 90 day growing season if you are lucky. One year I had to replant beans 3 times, the last after they were snow killed in June. Another drawback for the state is lack of potable water. My well put out 5 GPM and was considered a good well and at it was 300 feet deep, to boot. The majority of the water there is very alkaline, or from natural hot water underground sources and extremely heavy on the minerals. That really plays havoc with water faucets and water heater elements. Lastly, there is no wood in the state to speak of for heating purposes either except pine, in the very western part of the state. Best, – “Mrs. Golf”