Letter Re: On Gold, Silver, and Barter

First of all, I want to say thank you for putting so much effort in to an active blog on this subject. I try to read daily, and I always play catch-up once a week. I know it takes a TON of work to keep something like this alive and post as much each day as you do, so again, thanks. I was moderately concerned for the first time reading your blog this past week in regards to the post on Gold and Silver Barter. In there you referred to the American public as having “been robbed”. My concern is that this is one of the few places where survivalists get the bad rap of being crazy. I want to point out something: whether it’s gold, a paper dollar, or a rock, the value of whatever item is determined by faith, not intrinsic value. Gold is only valuable to us because we decided that shiny stuff was so important that we were willing to trade long, hard days of work for a little bit of it. At one point in our nation’s past we limited the currency in the market to be equal to the value of the gold the US Treasury has on hand – but there was a problem. By the 1950s, during our rebuilding of the country post-WWII, there was so much growth going on that we actually were outpacing the availability of gold in the market. We were slowly stifling our own economy because we could not produce more goods and services that there was physical gold in the market. Finally, common sense prevailed when we realized something: The American public did not need gold, they needed dollars. They can not use gold in the grocery, the feed store, or the mall. Dollars they can use. People have more faith in the dollar than they do in the ounce of gold. Let the economy grow! To imply that we have been fooled is to imply conspiracy and breeds distrust. We may differ here, but I believe that is completely possible to work within the system until there is no system. When there is no system, I will be beside the other readers here making the best of the barter system. Until then, I will happily use my U.S. Dollars to purchase those items, never once believing I have been duped. To summarize, whether it is gold, paper currency, diamond, or potato – the value of any item is what we’re willing to trade in labor or tangibles to obtain it. The U.S. Dollar’s value is not, and should not be based on our perceived value of gold, since gold has no value of its own other than what we assign it. Gather your junk silver and gold for WTSHTF, but don’t believe in it more than the dollar. Oh, and don’t worry about the feds coming to take away your gold – since we’re not on the gold standard then they don’t need it. – L.C.

JWR Replies: I really appreciate you taking the time to articulate your opinion because I’m sure that there are many other people that feel the same way. But I do beg to differ. We have been robbed. When the Federal government decreed that our 90% silver coins in circulation be replaced with essentially worthless copper tokens (worth perhaps 2% of what a silver is worth, in terms of their metals content) it was both a violation of the public trust and a violation of the Constitution. (Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution states, “No State shall make any Thing but Gold and Silver Coin a tender in payment of debt.”) It is no wonder that the pre-1965 coinage vanished from circulation in less than two years after the switch. Gresham’s Law is inescapable: “Bad money drives out good.”

By law, a pre-1965 dollar was convertible into real silver coinage. In contrast, a post-1964 Federal Reserve Note (FRN) “dollar” is merely an non-convertible “I Owe You Nothing” certificate. Whenever I get handed handed FRNs, I convert most of them into tangibles as quickly as possible.  Someday, probably within the next ten years, there will be a dollar crisis.  At the far end of that crisis, I predict that the dollar will revert to close to its real value. (Essentially, nothing.)

And, re:  “…there was so much growth going on that we actually were outpacing the availability of gold in the market…”  That is hogwash invented by Keynesian economists. If the free market were allowed to exist, then we would have had a free-floating currency, still backed by gold and silver.  (The “bi-metallic” system.) A convertible, metals-backed currency acts as a natural check on the growth of government, not the economy. It is no coincidence that the Federal debt exploded after we went off the gold standard.  With an unbacked currency, there is no limit to a government spending like a drunken sailor.  (BTW: I mean no offense to drunken sailors. In my experience they act much more responsibly than governments.)

And, re: “…gold has no value of its own other than what we assign it.”  You make it sound as if gold is just a pretty rock (“shiny stuff”) that has arbitrarily been assigned a high value.  But gold’s high value is due in part because of its unique intrinsic properties. Gold is the most malleable and ductile metal known; (a single ounce can be beaten into a sheet that is 300 square feet). Heat, moisture, oxygen, and most corrosive agents have very little chemical effect on gold. (Gold coins recovered from 3,000 year old shipwrecks come up from the bottom of the ocean looking bright and shiny.) Because of its high electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion and other desirable combinations of physical and chemical properties, gold is an essential industrial metal. Since it is a good reflector of both infrared and visible light, it is used for the protective coatings on many artificial satellites.Gold coating enables biological material to be viewed under a scanning electron microscope.Gold alloys are used as a catalyst in organic chemistry, as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, cancer treatments, and restorative dentistry.The resistance to oxidation of gold has led to its widespread use as thin layers electroplated on the surface of electrical connectors to ensure a good connection. Gold performs critical functions in computers, communications equipment, spacecraft, jet aircraft engines, and a host of other products.
(Source of information for the preceding paragraph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold )

On MREs and Their Shelf Life

I’m often asked how long the U.S. Military “Meal Ready to Eat” (MRE) rations can be stored. SurvivalBlog reader “Mr. Tango” (BTW, don’t miss reading his fascinating profile) had a round of correspondence with the U.S. Army’s Natick Laboratories in Massachusetts, on the potential storage life of MREs. The data that they sent him was surprising! Here is the gist of it:

Degrees, Fahrenheit Months of Storage (Years)
120 1 month
110 5 months
100 22 months (1.8 years)
90 55 months  (4.6 years)
80 76 months  (6.3 years)
70 100 months  (8.3 years)
60 130 months  (10.8 years) — See Note 3, below

Note 1: Figures above are based on date of pack, rather than inspection date.

Note 2: MREs near the end of their shelf life are considered safe to eat if:
   A.) They are palatable to the taste.
   B.) They do not show any signs of spoilage (such as swelled pouches.)
   C.) They have been stored at moderate temperatures. (70 degrees F or below.)

Note 3: Not enough data has yet been collected on storage below 60 degrees F. However projections are that the 130 month figure will be extended.

Note 4: Time and temperature have a cumulative effect. For example: storage at 100 degrees F for 11 months and then moved to 70 degrees F, you would lose one half of the 70 F storage life.

Note 5: Avoid fluctuating temperatures in and out of freezing level.

Jim’s Comments: As with other storage foods, heat kills the shelf life of MREs in a hurry. So if you keep some “just in case” MREs in the trunk of your car, be sure to rotate them frequently. (Make sure that it is those MREs that you use for your hikes or hunting/camping/backpacking trips. For any large quantities of MREs that you intend to keep more than a year, be sure to store them in the coolest part of your house. The same applies to all of your other storage foods. The differential in temperature between the top shelf and the bottom shelf in your pantry room can be considerable. Reserve those upper shelves for heat-insensitive items like bottled water, salt, and paper products!)

The above cited figures are for palatability, not nutritive value. You should plan to supplement with a good quality double encapsulated multi-vitamin (such as VitaVim brand), good quality B-complex tablets, and 500 MG Vitamin C tablets. Vitamins should be stored in a cool, dark place for best shelf life. (Many tablets are light sensitive.) I recommend rotating your multi-vitamins and Vitamin C every 24 months, and the Vitamin B every 18 months. Remember that most of the fat, carbohydrates, and protein will still be available in MREs, even after many years of storage, but the vitamins won’t. Plan accordingly.

Because MREs and other emergency foods are relatively high in bulk and low in fiber, this could lead to digestive problems. Therefore, I also highly recommend storing a bulk fiber supplement such as Metamucil with each case of MREs. Don’t overlook this precaution!

In summary, I consider MREs a good short term/tactical food. For more info, including equivalents made for the armed forces of other nations, see: http://www.mreinfo.com. They are ideal to keep in your “Get Out of Dodge” (G.O.O.D.) packs.  However, they are very expensive, per meal.  The majority of your storage food dollars should be spent on bulk storage foods. Most of those should be purchased be in #10 cans and 5 gallon food grade storage buckets. Bulk storage foods are available from a number of vendors including:

Freeze Dry Guy
JRH Enterprises
Ready Made Resources
Safe Castle
Survival Enterprises
Walton Seed.
Live Oak Farms
AlpineAire Foods
Best Prices Inc. Storable Foods of Texas

MSG, By Any Other Name

The food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) is now used in an alarmingly wide variety of processed foods. MSG has a bad reputation for more than just inducing “Chinese food headache.”  IMHO, it is nasty stuff and should be avoided.  But that is difficult these days because food processors hide it by applying umpteen clever nom de guerres.  These can include:

Autolyzed yeast,
Barley malt,
Calcium caseinate,
Carrageen or carrageenan,
Enzyme modified,
Natural flavoring,
Hydrolyzed oat flour,
Hydrolyzed protein,
Hydrolyzed vegetable,
Malt extract,
Natural flavors,
Plant protein extract or extracts,
Potassium glutamate,
Protein fortified,
Protein isolates,
Sodium caseinate,
Soy protein or soy protein isolates
Soy sauce,
Teriyaki sauce,
Textured protein,
Ultra pasteurized,
Whey protein,
Yeast extract,
Yeast food.

(Special thanks to the authors of  The Carbohydrate Addicts’ Official FAQ on Monosodium Glutamate. See: http://www.carbohydrateaddicts.com/msg.html )

I don’t go so far as to recommend that you go on a MSG “witch hunt” in your pantry.  Rather, just be more aware and look at labels carefully whenever you are re-stocking.

Reader Product Review: Wiggy’s Hunter Sleeping Bag

This past Thursday thru Saturday was spent by me and a like minded, survival oriented friend in the mountains doing a cold weather shakedown. We headed up to the mountains, and did some primitive camping out in the middle of Bigfoot country at about 3,500 feet. This was a well scouted area, and I had found that nobody in at least the last year had been in the area but me. One of the items that we “shook-down” was my Wiggy’s Hunter. When I opened the box that it came in, I could see right off that it appeared to be one of the best put together products I had seen in a long time. It just seemed to shout “QUAILITY!” It is a 0 degree bag, so I knew it should have no problems with 20 degree nighttime temps that we expected. (And from what I’ve heard it probably would have little problem with temps below 0 degrees.) The temps did indeed get down into the 20s, but I slept very warm and comfortable in my Wiggy’s bag. I just wished it would have gotten even colder, to give it a real test. But I feel that considering how warm I slept this time, as opposed to just about freezing to death with my old bag, (in temps that were even warmer) that the Wiggy’s Hunter will not let me down even to temps below zero. Also the [compression] stuff sack (that for an extra 20 FRNs comes with it) is really nice, and worth every penny. Thanks for turning me and no doubt many others on to Wiggy’s via your book Patriots, and the ad that now runs on your site. Also I must highly recommend expedition weight polypropylene (PolyPro) Long Johns. They really made sitting around the campfire after the sun went down a pleasure. Sincerely, – Gung-Ho

Odds ‘n Sods:

A reader alerted me that the manufacturer of Gamma Seal Lids (those nifty screw top lids that fit on standard 3 to 7 gallon food storage buckets) are now available directly from the manufacturer at very reasonable prices if bought in quantity.  See: http://www.gammaseals.com.


In a recent phone conversation, the gent who was the basis for the “Roger Dunlap” character in my novel Patriots mentioned: “In inflation-adjusted dollars, gold’s $850+ per ounce peak back in 1979 would be the equivalent of about $1,550 per ounce today.”  Despite the price increases since 2001, gold is still dirt cheap. He recommends taking advantage of the still low price and stocking up before it zooms up past $500 per ounce.  And silver, he said, is “an even better buy.  Gold may double or triple in the next two years. But silver is likely go way up–five or ten times its current price!”  Both he and I strongly recommend: Buy silver! To make it a real survival asset, buy physical silver–not mining stocks–and take personal possession. Keep it at home, well hidden.  (Get creative and construct yourself a hidden wall cache.) Silver in a vault under the Paradeplatz in Zurich will do you no good when you need it to barter for groceries.  Ditto for silver or gold in a safe deposit box at your local bank. In the event of a monetary crisis you can count on bank “holidays.” And, if and when the banks do re-open, you can expect a government busybody with a clipboard to be standing there when you access your deposit box.


See www.freebuck.com  for an inflation calculator that will help you appreciate inflation’s long term effects.


Dr. Geri Guidetti of The Ark Institute recommends the book Country Wisdom & Know-How: A Practical Guide to Living off the Land (By the editors of Storey Publishing’s Country Wisdom Bulletins.)  A copy of this book should be on your bookshelf, right next to your copy of  Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living.  See:  http://www.arkinstitute.com/bookstore.htm

Note from JWR:

I encourage you to continue to spread the news about SurvivalBlog. Our readership is growing fast, but there are still millions out there with web access who have never heard of it. A brief e-mail to your like-minded friends or mention of SurvivalBlog when calling in to talk radio shows would be greatly appreciated! Every friend that you help motivate to get prepared represents one less person that you’ll find sheepishly begging on your doorstep, come TEOTWAWKI+1. Instead of being part of the problem, they’ll be part of the solution.

From The Memsahib: Asian Avian Flu and the Home Poultry Flock

Here at the Rawles Ranch the chicken-loving Memsahib couldn’t help but be dismayed when her DH suggested the immediate sale of her sizable flock of terribly cute and tame chickens.  So off to the internet in search of answers…

Wild birds can be the carriers of Avian Flu to domestic chickens and turkeys.  Bird flu can be spread from country to country by migratory birds.  Waterfowl can carry avian flu without clinical signs of infection. With that said, how can any government in the world keep the Avian Flu from reaching their shores? To prevent Avian Flu infecting your home poultry flock, your fowl must be protected from coming into contact with the saliva, respiratory secretions and feces of wild birds.  Furthermore you must prevent wild bird saliva, secretions, and feces from contaminating the food and water of your poultry flock, or contaminating your poultry equipment. This means here at the Rawles Ranch, letting the chickens have free range is a thing of the past. We have to redo our chicken housing too.  First, the poultry wire will be replaced with much smaller mesh so that small wild birds can’t enter the pens. Next, all parts of the pens will have solid tops so that if wild birds do perch on the top their feces cannot drop into the pen.   

It appears that all humans who contracted Avian Flu had direct contact with live birds.  Transmission occurs when human breathe in droplets of secretions or dried feces of infected birds.  There is no evidence that suggests the virus is transmitted by consuming poultry products.  Reducing your exposure to the birds’ secretions make sense.  How about nest boxes with doors to the outside so that you can collect eggs without entering the coop?  How about food hoppers and waterers that can be filled from outside the coop?  (But make sure they are covered and that wild birds can’t contaminate them.)  What about keeping the chickens in raised pens and letting their feces drop below into bins with earthworms to compost it ? 

To be frank, not being able to let my chickens free range spoils it for me. I built my flock up to about 30 laying hens, so that I would have plenty of eggs to share. The cost of the extra feed was offset by their ability to free range for grasshoppers and other chicken treats in the pasture.  But if all of the feed has to be store bought, then the feed costs really start adding up in a hurry, not to mention taking up storage space!  So in the end it seems more logical to cut the flock waaaay back to just enough laying hens to provided eggs for family use and to put up more storage food for people instead of chickens.  That’s too bad, because I really enjoy the pastoral picture of my contented chicken catching bugs in the barnyard.

Just What is ‘Survivalism’ Anyway? — By “Warhawke”

This question causes a lot of confusion for people who are new to survivalist movement. The mass-media has always portrayed people in the survivalist movement as paranoid nuts. Either they show us as racist killers waiting for the day when the ‘mud-people’ can be put in their place, or religious freaks praying for the end of the world, or cold-war nut cases who think the Russians are coming to steal their women and rape their cattle. In truth, the run-of-the-mill survivalist got his start as an average person with an average job who simply looked around and didn’t like what he saw.
Survivalists are just people who know that civilization is millions of people we don’t know, getting up every day and going to work at jobs we never knew existed. If a large portion of those people cannot do their jobs, you and I will not receive the benefit of their work and we, in turn, will not be able to do our jobs and therefore others will not receive the goods or services that we provide. Pretty soon all that you, or anybody else, will have are those things that you can provide for yourself, and how much is that?
Think about that for a moment, how many times in your life have you been faced with a situation where the normal mechanisms of civilized society–things like electricity, water, heat, shelter, food distribution, transportation, etc.–have been unavailable to you? Maybe it was a snowstorm that knocked out power, or a water main break in your neighborhood, or the aftermath of a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake. Most people have experienced some kind of failure for at least a few hours. Well imagine a situation where these things are gone for months, or years, perhaps even the rest of your life. Survivalists, seeing the teetering economy of the 1970s, the threat of nuclear warfare and all the other threats to our civilization, realized that they might soon be faced with just such a situation and acted to protect their lives and families.
The problem was that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a lot of people, both in the media and in government, began to worry that survivalism was becoming too popular. You see, people who are self-sufficient make much of the government irrelevant, at least in regards to their own lives. A person who has the ability to supply his or her own basic needs, like food, water, shelter, etc. has no need to demand that the government “do something” for them. The government, on the other hand, needs people to require its services. Let’s face it, if nobody needs disaster relief, why should the government keep FEMA around? If everybody took care of their own retirement needs, where would Social Security be? Welfare, job training, food stamps, Medicare, and a hundred other programs are justified by the helplessness of many people in the face of adversity, therefore, if we are not helpless these programs would disappear (along with the taxes needed to fund them). The media, being overwhelmingly in support of such programs, also saw the danger posed by people asserting their independence.
So the media sought out the fringe element within the survivalist movement. Story after story showed the racists, the religious fanatics, the nuts who said the government was controlled by little gray aliens, and the guys who were just flatly incoherent on the subject. After years of such stories blanketing the broadcast and print media, few people wanted to be connected with the term survivalist, except for the aforementioned nuts. So the visible movement faded away. People like me didn’t stop being survivalists, we just stopped calling ourselves that.
In the early 1990s, there was a brief resurgence in the movement, only this time it was the so-called Militias who assumed the mantel, and their emphasis was not on surviving the collapse of civilization, but rather on preparing to fight what they saw as a government out of control. Instead of stockpiling food and medicine, they stockpiled guns and ammunition. Instead of wanting to retreat from danger, the militias wanted to raise the bloody flag of revolution, or at least that is what we were told. Of course the similarities between the two movements were more apparent than real, but the media once again latched on and wouldn’t let go. The Oklahoma City bombing knocked back the militia movement to a great extent, and the survivalist label was even less appropriate when applied to many of the remnants.
Then we come to 9/11 and the Anthrax attacks. In hours, people who had never before considered survivalist preparations were burning up their credit cards buying gas masks, prepared food, bottled water, firearms, and anything else that joyous salesclerks could think of. Stockbrokers were putting bug-out-bags in their Porsches, CEOs were stocking vacation homes with freeze-dried food, and collage professors were picking out shotguns and learning all about the restrictions that gun owners had complained about for years. Why? Because, like most Americans, they had always assumed that America was invulnerable. The assumption was that the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force would always prevent any attack on the U.S. Suddenly they were shown just how disastrously incorrect that idea was.
The Twin Towers were more that just buildings, they were symbols of what we believed America was. They were American power stretching far above the world and overshadowing everyone else. They were American science and technology pointing toward the sky and reaching for the stars. They were America’s gateways, like the pillars of some great temple, leading to the mightiest nation on earth. And in the space of hours, they were nothing more than dust and rubble and twisted debris. No less symbolic was the destruction we saw at the Pentagon. Its architecture suggesting a mighty fortress, it has, since its construction in the Second World War, become the symbol of American military might. Seeing that building, belching smoke, with debris scattered before it, seeing the bodies of dead and wounded American service men and women being carried away. Watching, while part of America’s foremost citadel crumbled before us, said something to America, it said that there is no one to defend us.
Perhaps the most psychologically damaging events were the Anthrax letters. We might gripe and moan about the postal service, we might make fun of the mailman, but we still see those words: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Many of us remember when the coming of the mailman was a special event, and opening the mailbox was like a birthday that came six days a week, because you never knew what kind of surprise would be inside. Sure, it lost part of its glow when we discovered that most of what he brought was bills and junk, but deep inside of us we were still that little kid who bounced up and down in front of the window when we saw that gray uniform coming down the street. Then, to our horror we saw that uniform as a threat, a gray specter that might be bearing a cargo of powdered death to our door.
On that day Survivalism was reborn, most won’t call it that, the legacy of the media image still lingers, but that is what it is. Too many of our symbols have been trashed for us to ignore the truth anymore. We are vulnerable to any number of attacks and no government can protect us. Oh sure the Feds might bust 99 out of 100 of the bad guys, but when the one that gets away is packin’ a nuke or a few pounds of  The Plague, how much difference does it make? Let us not be so eager to lay those Cold War fears to rest either. Russia is still pointing a few thousand nuclear weapons at us, while the Peoples Republic of China is building more nukes, more missiles, more weapons period, and China has never been shy about going to war in her own interests. Adding in the regional powers like Iran and North Korea, both of whom have chemical weapons, probably biological weapons, and are working day and night on nuclear weapons as well as the means to deliver them, not only against their neighbors but anywhere in the world, just how much less likely is such an attack today, as compared to twenty years ago?
Many people have begun to understand they are now threatened, not merely in the abstract, but on a very personal level. Now they feel the need to take command of their lives. They see now that freedom means being responsible for their lives, and the lives of their children. The day when they could afford to assume that someone else would make sure that they were safe and protected are gone. The idea that they may find themselves stranded somewhere, alone, hungry, in need of water, food, and shelter is no longer inconceivable. Looking into the dust of the Trade Center towers has finally given them a frame of reference for the end of the system which has kept them safe their whole lives, and they now understand that, in the end, only they can help themselves, and that is the essence of Survivalism.
You WILL survive the end of the world… Probably…
This is the dirty little secret that your parents (and government) never told you. In all but a very few of the scenarios for an end-of-civilization disaster, the majority of the human race will survive the first twenty-four hours. If, for instance, a medium-sized asteroid were to hit the Pacific Ocean, it would probably kill a billion people the first day, but that would leave five billion of us alive. That is more than the population of the earth in 1970. So, unless you live on the west coast, or near an earthquake zone, or volcanically active area, you have pretty good odds of making it through that first day. The same goes for Nuclear War, caldera volcano explosion, socioeconomic collapse, or any of the other major disasters which could wipe out our civilization.
Once you realize that the odds of surviving that first day are actually stacked in your favor, you begin to realize that the event itself is less critical to your survival than the loss of essential services which will follow the disaster. So the question of whether or not you and your loved ones will live to see old-age depends on your ability to provide the essentials of life for yourselves. This goes double for the less earth-shattering disasters which people face on a much more frequent basis, things like earthquakes, tornados, tsunami, flood, famine, epidemic, war, riot, and blizzard. Because if you look at the statistics of past disasters you find that more people end up homeless and destitute than dead, and that many of the people who do die do so because they were unable to help themselves after the event.
Now you might say, “If something bad were to happen, somebody will be there to help me. The government, the Red Cross, or somebody, won’t they?” The answer is a definite maybe, and that is the problem. In the event of a local or regional disaster like a earthquake or hurricane, the usual mechanisms of disaster-relief will undoubtedly be available, but when? How long will it be before someone comes along to provide you and your family with food and water? One day? Two? Ten? Longer? Do you really want to sit quietly, waiting for someone else to provide for you?
We in the west, especially in America, have become used to the idea that someone will always be there for us. For too long we have sat in front of the television and watched while others have rushed to aid the victims of disaster. We have reached a point where most people think that they can ignore the possibility of disaster because the idea of disaster-relief has become a law of nature to their minds. The problem is that our ability to render aid to the victims is limited. We have seen our resources stretched to the limit before both in the case of the Northridge earthquake and hurricane Andrew our disaster relief systems were strained to the limit. Reports of people waiting days for help were not uncommon.
If a truly huge disaster were to strike, say the Yellowstone caldera volcano exploding, FEMA and the Red Cross would be swamped, and then where will you be? Look at the people of New Orleans, did help reach them in time? Was the help they received enough?


This is THE question that every survivalist has asked and been asked more that any other, and for most it is the hardest one to answer. The question usually goes something like this: “Why would you want to survive when everyone you know is dead?” Or perhaps, “What is the point of living after everything has been destroyed?”

Boy if I had a nickel… The problem with this question is not what it asks, but rather what it says about the questioner. I mean, look at what these questions really mean, life after some cataclysm will be really tough and you won’t have people to help you, so why not just die and get it over with?
For myself, I could never internalize this kind of question. I thought it went without saying that one should want to live, despite whatever hardships or difficulties we may face in life. To say otherwise is to say that we do not deserve to live now, much less after our society collapses. Hell, why should we want to live in the face of any adversity? Would it not simply be easier to die than to face the slings and arrows that life throws our way? Why go on at all, when death is so much easier? The idea that I should simply decide to pack it in because I might not have the fruits of civilization at my fingertips seems as ridiculous as blowing my brains out over a hangnail.
The answer to ‘Why?’ is very simple: “Because I’m worth it!” I am worthy of life! If the world must be rebuilt, then no better man exists to carry out that task than myself! Sound egotistical? So what? I am not a man to grovel, and beg the world’s forgiveness for living. Neither should you.
In our society, too many people have succumbed to the idea that we must apologize for what we have and who we are. The idea that being raised as a child of western civilization is some form of crime, that our existence is an affront to the rest of humanity, and that only by debasing ourselves and giving up what he have for the “Less Fortunate” can we atone for the transgression of existing. Bunk! The conditions of my birth were beyond my control, thus they are no sin of mine. The actions of my ancestors were none of my doing, thus they place no burden on me (beyond ensuring that I don’t commit the same injustices myself). The condition of the world was not brought about by me, so why should I be asked to correct it? My life is what I control, and while I do not seek it injure anyone by my actions, no man may ask that I ease his burdens by assuming them. Forget the guilt they hand you my friend, it is not yours. Forget the things that others define you by, their standards are unworthy of you.
You must learn to define yourself according to your own standards of value, not the shoddy standards of others. Look at the world we live in, this is the world the people who will revile you have made. Is this the world you want? Is this a world you want your children to live in? Is this the image of what you will seek to rebuild, if rebuild you must? You must decide who and what you are, to do otherwise is to be nothing but a slave to the person who you allow to define you.
You must decide what your life is going to be about, and then you must act to bring that purpose to fruition. You must do that which you know to be right and you must reject what you know to be wrong. When you have made your decision, when you act to enforce that decision, when you discover who and what you are, then you will truly be free, and only a free man is worthy to live, instead of simply existing.
A human being is unique in all the known universe (at least for the moment), as we are the only creatures that exist in the future. Only we can conceive of the world as it will be tomorrow, or centuries after our death. No other animal plans for a time beyond the moment, this moment, only man can look beyond the eternal now. What do you look for? Do you look for a day when you will walk on the face of Mars and stare at a sky no man has ever seen? Do you work for a day when your children or your children’s children will fly among the stars? I do.
Survivalism is a path, a way of life that leads to our future. What will your future be? Will it be a future where you drift aimlessly, moving from this moment to that, praying that nothing happens? Will you live your life, hoping that God and the government will keep the world at bay, ensuring that you will have all that you need in life? I won’t.
Many people accuse me of wishing for death and destruction, of expecting only doom and gloom. Well my friends, they could not be more wrong. I am the one who carries in his heart the hope of the world. I am one who look’s at the future with optimism, because I know that, come what may, I WILL survive. I WILL carry on, I WILL ensure the survival of those I care for. I can do no less, because my love of the world and my family demands no less, what about yours?
Our society is not simply dying, it is already dead. The motor of our world has stopped and the movement we see is nothing more than momentum. Soon, one of two things will happen, we will either build a new motor, we will find a new purpose and begin a new journey towards the future, or our wheels will finally stop. Whichever happens, the future will not be decided by the looters or the animals in human shape, it will be decided by the human beings. Whether the rebuilding of our world is a physical reconstruction in the rubble of the past, or a reconstruction of the spirit which carved nations from the wilderness, it is you who must do it. When you make a commitment to survivalism, you are not giving in to doom and gloom, you are refusing to do so. The fools who spend their days trying to ignore the passage of time, who waste their days marking time at a job they hate, wasting time in pursuit of “Entertainment,” or escape reality with chemicals, they are the ones who hate life, not you. The essence of life is to experience it, not to ignore it. The essence of survival is to LIVE, not just to exist. The survivalist strives to create and maintain his or her life, and the lives of their children at the level of civilized human beings, not in the moment to moment existence of animals.
The popular stories of a post-apocalyptic world show the brutal human animals, raping and pillaging those weaker than they, and there may be an element of truth in this. Good people are less fit to live in a world ruled by brute force. Not because of a lack of intelligence or know-how, but simply because good people have no need to take by violence, that which they may gain by work and trade. The stupid, the criminal, the brutes of the world have nothing to trade, no work to perform, they have nothing but their strength. The survivalist must also find strength, strength of mind, strength of character, and strength of will. The human animals are dangerous, but so are bears, or mountain lions, but none is as dangerous as a trained human mind.
You, who are reading this, who simply wish to provide for yourself and your family, you are worthy of life. You are a person fit to help rebuild the world, and to make the new one better than the old. You are HUMAN, and I know of no greater creature in all the universe. Now you simply need to convince yourself of it. You need to know, not feel, not wish, not hope or believe, but know that this is true. You are better than the animals who threaten us all, and who seek to live at our expense, you are worth more than all of them put together. Because you can help to put the world back together, while all they can do is destroy the work of their betters.

Letter Re: Investing in Tangibles vs. an IRA Account

Hi Jim,
I have been a big fan of yours for several years since I read your book [Patriots]! I was very excited to find your blog (via Claire Wolfe’s blog) and have been reading it and recommending it since day four.

My husband and I have been busy socking money away into retirement accounts to prepare for the future but after listening to your interview with Geri Guidetti we decided to take the money we were putting away in Roth IRAs and spend it instead on survival preparations. There are several reasons for this decision:

1) Roth IRA money is after tax money so you will have already paid tax on it.
2) Roth IRA earnings are supposedly non taxable when withdrawn but that law can be changed by Congress at any time.
3) Everything that we are buying would cost more in the future simply due to inflation or scarcity.

We are very fortunate to own my husband’s grandparents’ old homestead outside of Livingston, Montana. In the last year we have put in a modular (with a wood stove) and a well in preparation for our retirement. Now we have a year of storage food and a grain mill and enough medicines, vitamins, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. to last us several years. We are living and working in Nevada (a non-income tax state) and buying most of our provisions in Montana (a non sales tax state), except for the foods, which we bought on our way through Idaho, at Walton Feeds.

The point I wanted to make is that if people are saving for their retirement in any traditional accounts: IRAs, 401(k)s, etc., it might be a source of money to instead put it into beans, bullets, and band-aids or as you have said “tangibles.” At least Congress can’t take those away from you by changing a law! Thanks for all you do. – Mrs. R. , Elko, Nevada

JWR Replies: I think that you have chosen a wise course of action. Getting away from any investment denominated in dollars will be a very good thing, since we are likely heading toward a full blown dollar crisis and devaluation in the near future. I’m a big believer in investing in tangibles. I do have an IRA, but since 1999 it has been a self-directed gold coin IRA with American Church Trust. The folks at Swiss America can help you set one up. Under some circumstances a 401(k) can be rolled over into an IRA. You might consider that.

By buying storage food now, you are: 1.) buying in bulk which means buying at the lowest possible price in today’s market, 2.) beating eventual price increases, and 3.) protecting yourself from eventual scarcity. To borrow the modern parlance, food storage is a “win-win.” The same principle applies to most other tangibles. Spoilage is not an issue if you buy foods that have been packaged for long term storage, if you keep it away from vermin, and if you rotate it religiously.

OBTW, be sure to pre-position the vast majority of your gear, storage food, and sundries at your Montana retreat, since you may only have one trip “outta Dodge.” If the house is normally unoccupied and hence burglary is a concern, then one viable option is to store everything in a commercial storage space that is close to your retreat.

Note from JWR:

Today we feature another entry for the SurvivalBlog writing contest. The prize is a transferable four day course certificate, good for any course at Front Sight. Enter your non-fiction articles via e-mail by the end of November to be considered for the contest.

On Preparing Your Children

Let us review the basics of child rearing. Children are a gift from God and we are to bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. All preparedness means nothing if we have prepared our children for the eternal fires of hell. God, in His eternal wisdom and grace, providentially provided His son Jesus to restore us to a loving relationship with the Almighty. God provides covenantal blessings for those who obey Him and curses for those who don’t. With that being said it is imperative that all our worldly preparation be first and foremost spiritual because we are to store up that which is eternal and lasts forever rather than the temporary. Furthermore, the Bible is very clear as to our responsibility to provide for our own family which thus leads us into this discussion. I have thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Rawles’s book Patriots and find it to be the most comprehensive book of its kind. I was blind to the fact I was not prepared for any small emergency that may occur. It shocked me into action. Whether it is an evening storm outage or the full blown worse case scenario I wasn’t ready. The following article is an attempt at providing an addendum to Patriots for those families with small children. We home school our five children ages 3 to 11 and found preparing for emergencies take on a whole new meaning when plans must take into account those who can’t account for themselves. The Patriots story fits a certain demographic and my family doesn’t fit that profile. So here are my thoughts and ideas on preparing a family with primary age children.

The Beginning
I truly believe that having the right mindset or belief system about preparedness is essential. We are not hoarding out of panic or fear but making a concerted effort to provide the necessities of daily living for an extended period of time. Discretion is necessary because two things occur during preparation. The first is possibly being socially ostracized by being labeled a survival whacko by neighbors. These people are harmless until a survival situation occurs and then they become problem number two-potential security risks. I believe all preparedness should be disguised in some way. For instance, all guns and equipment can be acquired for our camping and shooting hobbies or purchasing food in bulk can be “taking advantage of a good sale.” Whatever you do just be creative in disguising all your actions especially with family or friends. Likewise, our mindset should be long-term focused because being prepared is a process, not an event. Preparedness begins with education of the entire family and not just the spouse who is driving the agenda. A family should cultivate an environment of learning that permeates the entire daily lives of its members. The more you educate yourself prior to purchases the farther your dollar will go with wise decisions and quality buying habits.

My education started with reading Patriots for the first time. I would recommend everyone do the same because it gives you a realistic idea of the effort required to get prepared. Once you make the decision to start you should take a realistic inventory of your skill set and knowledge. Be honest about how well you would do in a mild disruption, large-scale emergency and full-tilt TEOTWAWKI. Start your reading list with the idea that you will prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Start first with Beans, Bullets and Band-aids and in that order.
Beans refer to getting educated on how to grow, store and prepare food in a survival situation. This may at first seem a large burden on the parents but children of all ages can have a keen role in this area. Children love gardening and are good at planting and weeding. In fact, by the time I was 12 years old I was responsible for half of our garden which included beans, broccoli, strawberries, raspberries, onions, carrots and potatoes. Children are especially adept at picking crops without ruining their backs or getting stuck by thorns in the blackberry bush. Beware of “2 in the mouth and 1 in the bucket” blight of these two-legged creatures. It can be as costly as infiltration of a four-legged pest into your garden.
Turn off the TV! Or better yet, get rid of it altogether. The outdoors should be a constant classroom as you walk, talk, weed, plow and play. By being outside you have ample opportunity to teach across a broad spectrum of topics and curriculum. For example I have attempted to link activities with teachable topics for preparedness.

  • Gardening & Preserving = Planning/Agri-management, Geology, Hydrology, Botany, Construction, Irrigation, Anatomy (when muscles ache), Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Culinary Science, History and Horticulture, Oceanography/Atmospheric Science
  • Hunting & Hiking = Geography, Topography, Geophysics (magnetic fields), Zoology, Botany, Anatomy, Ballistics, Military Science, Culinary Science, Physical Education,
    Oceanography/Atmospheric Science, Geology, and Astronomy
  • Touch Football Game = Military Science, Physical Education, Anatomy, History

I think you get the idea. Even something as simple and mundane as football has value to prepare for a survival situation. The key is to be creative and make it fun for the kids. I play a game with my kids as we hike. We haven’t made the move to the country so we drive over to a natural area on the edge of suburban Spokane. Our game is called “Patrol” We hike in silence and in 5 yard intervals. Each kid takes a turn at Point leading the way up to a pre-determined destination and the others rotate bringing up the rear.
The really fun part is when I whisper “Danger Close!” or “Tango” we race to find concealment and the last one to get concealed well is tagged. When its time for a break we look for a rest spot that is concealed and yet provides good line of sight for security. I don’t want to traumatize them so the “bad guys” are the looters they saw on TV during Hurricane Katrina coverage. Even kids know a bad guy when they see one. Children love to learn and play games and if you can do both at once, Amen! Each teachable moment is a short lecture about life and the world we live in. You will train your children to improvise, adapt, and overcome life’s challenges. Educate yourself in all aspects of the preparedness mindset but don’t exclude the little ones. They are just as eager to learn as you and may actually retain more factoids than our aged brains.

Getting Out of Dodge
G.O.O.D. provides several unique hurdles when preparing for children. Instead of breaking up the topic into Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids I will discuss as an all encompassing endeavor. Depending on the age of your children preparedness has to take into account the child’s physiology from the start. Teenagers don’t have inherent problems as do tending to small pre-adolescent age groups. A teenager, for the most part, has stopped growing or is growing into adult sizes that make acquiring survival gear a bit easier.
Primary age children grow out of their clothes extremely fast and if a TEOTWAWKI scenario occurs you must store sizes to grow into. I guarantee during TEOTWAWKI Wal-Mart won’t be holding a clearance sale or Schumer Day sale on gear (Actually if anyone would be open for business it probably would be Wally World). I believe one can prepare in several ways for growing children and seasonal changes in weather. Once again a little education can go a long way.
Preparation should encompass a layered approach starting with a 1) G.O.O.D. Bag, 2) Rapid Deployment Bin and 3) Long-term Inventory. G.O.O.D. bag is a backpack loaded with all essentials that are pre-packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Mr. Rawles description in Patriot’s is a great place to start. The idea with children is to size down the weight since kids can’t carry at par and most likely won’t be carrying ammo and other weighty items. Also make sure the clothing is sized up one size. Kids can fit into something a bit larger but squeezing into something a size too small is misery. Once you bring the weight down look to exchange adult items for kid friendly items for comfort and entertainment. Add a couple of books and a deck of cards or a travel size game instead of ammo or firearms. Also have a spare set of clothing one size bigger to grow into.

Rapid Deployment Bins
The Rapid Deployment Bin is a supply prepared for rapid deployment where you will travel by vehicle and not on foot. For instance, if you had ample warning and were leaving home for a retreat location this would easily be picked up and hauled with other necessary items. We use square plastic bins with locking lids that conveniently stack and are transportable. One bin per kid and you can easily prepare several years of clothing for all weather extremes. Add two pairs of boots and two pair of snow boots and one child can be squared away for at least two years. Coveralls are a great way to fit one child for several growth spurts. Coveralls can fit even when their too big and can be grown into over time. One pair of light[weight] and one insulated can be stored easily to provide year-round protection. You may have realized the problem of keeping all eggs in one basket. If I were to loose one bin that child would be in a world of hurt. I am currently looking for some plastic half-barrels to store two clothing units per kid and hold two for each member of our household.

Long-Term Inventory
Long-term inventory at a retreat location would be similar to Rapid Inventory arrayed in comparison to the Patriots example of lockers. The supply of clothing and other necessities would be more in depth and take into consideration long-term growth in height and weight of children. It would also be wise to add some patches and Shoo-Goo into your sewing kit to add calendar life to BDUs and boots. Knees on pants and soles on boots can wear out faster than other articles. Repairing means some items can be handed down to smaller kids when outgrown by its owner. Once kids grow out of a size and you run out of kids to hand them down they will make great charity or barter items.

Purchasing and Storage
We have two methods for obtaining and storing clothing that saves time, money and storage space. My wife is warrior shopper which means she finds all the deals and never pays full price. We found a new pair of Sorrel winter boots in a youth size for only $3.00 at a local thrift store. The most intriguing part is that it was August when she bought them. Remember: Preparing is a process not an event. Start with a list of sizes and actual gear you need to outfit the family. Camo gear can be hard to come by but light brown and earth tones aren’t. Buy the earth tones and browns which can easily be dyed to some level of camouflage during bad times.

Thrift stores and garage sales are the only way to go. We also plan to buy a sewing machine and learn a few basics on manufacturing our own clothing. You can now buy polar fleece camouflage material in several patterns which can save a bundle compared to store bought outer gear. Be diligent with the yard sales because in our area the local Russian immigrant population hits the sales right as they open between 7 and 9 AM. We have found that they can take all the good stuff before you even get a chance.
A big recommendation for G.O.O.D. bag, Rapid Deployment Bins and Long-term retreat storage is the use of a vacuum sealer. You can seal a whole set of clothing in one pouch. It saves on G.O.O.D. bag space and bin space also. For an example, in a large bag I can fit 1 pair of BDUs, 3 t-shirts, 3 underwear, 5 socks and one set polypropylene and that is vacuum sealed into a space the size of a laptop computer. Planning ahead and have several sets all prepared and sealed allows for additional storage space. Label each bag with a marker for age and size information to make inventory easy and you are set to store for use, charity or barter. The sealer works great for dried food items also so this is a great purchase for beginning to get squared away. Shop online for the best deals or even check local “nickel” want ads.

I have a few quick thoughts on a cache that may be easier on the pocket book. If you are looking to cache some items you don’t have to wait until you have a big pile but you can cache in increments. Five gallon food grade buckets can be used as personal or individual caches. Restaurants throw these “buckets” away on a regular basis. Contact a local burger joint and ask them if you can have their pickle buckets when finished. Soak overnight in a little bleach water to remove the vinegar smell. Use a small plastic garbage bag to line the interior before placing items inside. If the restaurant destroys or cuts the lid you can purchase replacements at paint stores or nearest warehouse lumber store.
Placement of the buckets in the ground can be done individually as you prepare them. I recommend sealing the lid with duct tape and placing the bucket into black garbage bags before putting into the ground. Use the heavy duty contractor’s grade garbage bags; they cost a little more but are super heavy duty and will take 30+ years to decompose in the soil. Place your bucket into one bag and then inside a second bag for double layer protection. I prefer a long trench for my cache to make recovery as simple as possible. Once I find the first bucket I know where exactly the others are in a linear formation. You can save time and energy later by lining the trench and back-filling around the buckets with pea gravel up to 3 inches over the top. The last 12 inches should be normal top-soil or fill. There are several reasons to use pea gravel. First, it allows better water drainage over time so there is little chance of moisture compromising your cache. Second, rocks can be pushed into and break open the plastic containers that’s why irrigation, telecom and other utility pipe is installed with sand first and then backfilled with dirt. Third, pea gravel helps recovery of cache if done when conditions aren’t ideal. If you have to recover in the dark the pea gravel will contrast to top soil by sight and sound when digging. It also makes removal of buckets easier since they will just slide out and won’t have to be dug from compacted soil. It can also help if you have to dig with primitive tools or your hands.

Defense/Combat Training
I am a graduate of Front Sight Firearms Training School. I cannot stress enough the overall value of spending time at that facility. They took me from dangerous novice to Distinguished Graduate status in four days. I was ignorant of just how dangerous I was to myself and others. I had gone through a basic hunter’s Ed class at age 12. I have hunted many years in the woods of northeastern Washington chasing deer and in the blinds of the Pend Oreille River freezing my tail off for the occasional duck and goose. Being around guns all your life actually makes you complacent and more dangerous than a novice. Just because you’ve been around guns your whole life doesn’t mean you are safe. Once you have professional grade training you will be astonished at just how much you didn’t know. So before you go off and try to teach combat skills make sure you have time-tested education in this area. Even with my level of skill I am slowly introducing responsible gun handling to my kids. When we are out in the woods they can take toy guns or BB guns and they are to practice muzzle control. At home during dry practice we practice snapping in and breathing for sight/target control and trigger control. These elements come together when we take the Chipmunk .22 out to the range. The kids are already proficient with open sights at 25 yards.
Bottom line is you will always fall back to your highest level of training during a combat/life saving situation. If you can’t do the right thing without thinking about it you are likely a danger to yourself and others if the threat level goes black. Don’t wait to find out the hard way by causing injury or death negligently. Get the training-it’s worth it!

I hope I have provided some helpful hints and ideas. If you have a better thought or suggested improvement please share them in a follow up letter. I know I have come a long way but I am just getting started in this process of becoming prepared. It is comforting to know that God’s providence rules over all things. Preparedness must be in submission to His law or it is hoarding, which is sin. If you don’t know the difference go seek guidance from your pastor or church elder. There are blessings for those who keep His commandments and curses for those who don’t. We are not guaranteed an easy life or a life free from persecution or strife but His path will not lead you astray. God Bless and get started. – B.H. in Spokane

Letter Re: Pandemics–Winners and Losers

Jim, I think your estimations on the results of a pandemic are … incomplete. Say the worst case scenario happens…say 1/3 of the population of the US dies. That is 100-million or so people, out of 300 million or so.We really don’t know what segments of the population H5N1 will attack. In Asia, it’s attacking the very young mostly but they’re also the ones that have the most contact with the infected fowl. The 1918 Spanish Influenza killed mainly young to middle aged, very healthy people, but that was from secondary infection that couldn’t be treated (today we have antibiotics that would work on the sequalae of the viral infection). So, we don’t know which parts of the population will be most at risk.
The population of the United States reduced to 200 million would be a terrible tragedy. But to put it in perspective, the population of the United States was 200-million in 1965. Since 1965, we’ve gone to the moon, mapped the human genome, developed technology that I won’ bother to repeat. However, life in 1965 wasn’t exactly terrible, not like the ‘dark ages’ that bubonic plague kept Europe in.

Call me an optimist, but should the worst happen I think it would take a relatively short time (less than 50 years) before the economic growth of the US (in particular) regains it’s former levels. Climbing a mountain the second time is always easier, since we already know the route. – “Flighter”

JWR Replies: Hmmmm… I thought that I had been intentionally optimistic in my estimate of the potential effects. Imagine a situation where people are panicky because of an outbreak of an easily transmissible flu strain in the United States–even in just one region. Who is going to continue to show up for work? Will the 18 wheelers continue to roll–restocking the grocery stores? (A situation exacerbated by the inevitable panic buying.) Will the fuel tankers still dock at American ports? Will supply trucks be allowed to cross Federally dictated quarantine lines? Will the coal trains continue to arrive at the power plants?

Our economy is a widely distributed web of interdependency. The supply chains are almost ridiculously long. The modern microwave convenience foods oven come immediately to mind. Take for example, a bag of Stouffer’s Chicken/Vegetable Stir Fry: Where are each of ingredients grown or raised? (The following is mostly conjecture.) The wheat for the pasta (Kansas?), the Broccoli (California?), the Chicken (Arkansas?), the tomatoes (Chile?), the bell peppers (Texas?), the carrots (Alabama?), the parsley (Oregon?), the water chestnuts (China?) the white long grain rice (Louisiana?), the pineapple and sugar (Hawaii?), the molasses to combine with the sugar to make brown sugar (Tennessee?) the ginger (Japan?) the sesame oil and curry powder (India?), the salt (California?), the apple cider vinegar (Vermont?), the “yeast extract” (a pseudonym for MSG) (Taiwan?), the corn starch (Iowa?) Consider that each food and spice transits many states by truck or train or even across oceans in cargo containers before arriving at the Stouffer Corporation food processing plant in Solon, Ohio. There, they are cooked and flash frozen. OBTW, where is that plastic bag made? And where is the ink on the label made? Then those bags are boxed up in cardboard box that is made in a nearby Ohio town. But wait! The wood pulp that makes the paper for the box comes from trees felled in Washington and milled in Idaho. Then, through a different chain of supply-again transiting umpteen states–the the boxed bags of frozen entrees must be kept continuously frozen until it makes it to your local store freezer case. An optimist would call this a “modern miracle.” As a ornery pessimist, I call it a disaster waiting to happen.

With these long chains of supply, I predict that it won’t take much to collapse the whole works. Of course, we’ve never seen something of this magnitude happen to a modern technological society. Our entire society is geared toward driving down costs by choosing the absolute lowest cost components/ingredients, regardless of their place of origin, and then storing as few of them as possible. (The “kan ban” or “just in time” supply system–again to minimize costs.) In the 1930s, more than 20% of the population lived on family farms. Today, 2% of the population feeds the other 98%. And in the 1930s chains of supply were short–the vegetables in the grocery stores mostly came from nearby truck farms.

We have built ourselves a house of cards! Just pray that people keep coming to work out of economic necessity. I agree that the road back to economic recovery following a collapse could potentially be swift, given our level of technology. But if one of the key enabling infrastructures (grid power, telecommunications, or transportation) gets badly broken then our technological sophistication could turn out to be our Achilles’ Heel.