According To Hoyt

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Okay, I’m sick and tired of hearing in every group I belong to that “Doom, gloom, the end is coming soon.”

Now, I join with you in thinking that we’re on a difficult path and with the pool of two joker-Americans to pick from for the presidency, it might be a mighty step for joker-Americans, but the rest of us are going to suffer a worse economy, diminished prospects and likely, in either case, because hyenas smell blood, war at home and abroad.

The severity of all of these could range from a continuation of the last eight years or to much, much, much worse.

How far worse?

Well — sigh — we stand to lose a lot of our liberties. This will slow down the rate of improvement in the sciences and tech, or bring it to a halt all together.  Our children will face yet a more diminished world and eventually, sometime around our great grandchildren, if this goes on, they’ll be about as poor as the rest of the world.

I mean, let’s be real, okay?  I’m more than sick and tired of people envisioning a plunge down into the middle ages, or the stone age.  I’m more than sick and tired of people imagining that tomorrow we’ll be Venezuela.

There is a lot of ruin in a country, particularly a country as rich as the US. And no, you have no idea how rich you are.  Nor do Europeans guess how rich we are.  They tend to think it’s “about like them” or worse because less government assistance, but take it from someone who’s been all over Europe and a great part of the US: you have no idea.  I once read that the equivalent for Europe was about two social levels down.  So, if you’re a secretary in the US, you live as well as doctors in Europe.  And that’s by and large true, with adjustments.  For instance, in the US things are easier to find, particularly specialized gadgets/food/clothes are much easier to find and take less time.  OTOH in Europe, (at least in the Southern part of it) you’re more likely to find cheap household help.

But what I’m trying to say is that the crash rarely comes the way you expect it.  Oh, sure, civilizations in the world have been destroyed suddenly and no two stones have remained together, but that was when the world, and civilization was smaller and more easily squelchable, and even then I wonder if life changed that much between the before and the after for the average peasant on the outskirts of the city.  We know that when we dig beyond the historical accounts of fierce battles and entire populations of cities put to the sword, what we find is far less radical, far less scary and often far less heroic.

Even Rome, we think now, fell not in one great glorious invasion, but because the d*mn barbarians kept trickling over the border, and the Romans found them too useful to kick out, or even defend the border from (stop me when the tale sounds familiar.  Never mind.) Sure there were military invasions, but Rome qua classical Rome was already long gone.

And then there was the rest of the Empire.  Did Rome really fall?  Come walk  the streets of Portugal with me sometime, and tell me that.  And then we’ll both laugh at how things change, without changing.

There is, I’m trying to tell you, an inertia to good things as well as bad.  As hard as it is to change society for the better, it’s also difficult to change it for worse.   Sure things can get worse, slowly and incrementally, but even with horrible management, with terrible presidents, with laws restricting our freedoms, your wealth won’t vanish overnight.  Barring a cataclysm of epic proportions, you’re not even going to go back to the days of two tv channels, much less to the days of tube radio, or of no mass entertainment at all.  Barring a cataclysm of epic proportions, computer programmers won’t become farmers.  Barring a cataclysm of epic proportions, instead of really a lot of small cataclysms and difficulty obtaining things, you’ll find that you’re better off in a somewhat suburban community near the city, where you can get the best of both worlds than in the middle of nowhere, where there are no jobs and food is hard to come by, unless you grow it yourself.

Look, things are going to get worse.  We are so rich you might not notice it for a while.  It’s more a matter of less new stuff, fewer vacations.  Then they’ll get yet worse.

In the seventies, we stopped baking at all, unless it was someone’s birthday because baking used too much fuel.  Even for birthdays, things like “pancake cakes” where you fried each layer on the stove top started being popular, because less fuel.  VISUALIZE having to consider how much gas/electricity you’re using to cook a meal and adjusting your lifestyle accordingly.

There’s a long way for the US to even get to that, much less to compounds and growing your own food, and shooting intruders.

Yes, I know, you’re going to say “what happens when the welfare checks fail?”  Supposing that happens, instead of them just being diminished or devalued?  The recipients will prey on their own neighbors and riot.  And then they’ll die.

Most of what we’re seeing about Venezuela, which is a LOOOOOOOOONG way from where we are (yes, richest country, blah blah, yeah, sure but FAR more uneven than here) is about the POOR.  My family there which is anti-Chavez and solidly middle class is AT MOST being inconvenienced.  Sometimes they can’t find what they want in the store; the choice is smaller; they have to contrive. The black market starts figuring BIG in everyone’s life.

But isn’t there a lot more crime?  Well, yes.  There has always been, also the idea that crime is caused by poverty is a Marxist thing.  Crime is caused by criminals and people constitutionally not inclined to obey the law.  If I understand Venezuela (and I claim no more knowledge than what I overheard from relatives, then policing was always like in any Latin country, dependent on bribes and on “if you commit a crime but pay me” — that has just gone more out of control, as, I’d guess, the police become less zealous.

BUT crime can be way worse before life dissolves.  People tend to imagine welfare recipients becoming destitute and descending on other neighborhoods.  This is not the way it happens.  The way it happens is that they mostly sit in place and lament and try to use their victimhood to get stuff (from charity, from politicians, from…) A few of them will spy targets of opportunity and strike, but that’s just an INCREASE in crime, not total lawlessness.  It means fences go up and people hire neighborhood security patrols.

Look, I’m not saying any of this is GOOD.  I don’t want a diminished future for my children and grandchildren.  I don’t want greater crime. I don’t want medicines and electricity and the comforts of civilization to be irregularly available.  And I definitely don’t want us to lose our freedom. Not only because that’s the real engine of our growth, but because it is our hope for a better future.

BUT what you’re imagining is not what’s likely to happen.  Compounds out in the middle of nowhere, as Ferfal pointed out, never work out.

Don’t quit your job and become a goat herder.  This is not the way to survive.

If you can stay in place.  If you can’t, find a place where you can be safer and still keep your job/get groceries/etc.

We’re more likely to get hit with what happened in Argentina, and is happening in Venezuela and Zimbabwe than with the “no two stones together” thing.  And the strategies are different.

Your first priority should be to maximize your income or your wealth.  In collapses, it is the poor that suffer the most.

Your second priority is to make sure your home is safe, even if all it means is installing an alarm, getting another gun, or putting a bigger fence around your home, so you don’t make yourself a bigger target.

Your third priority is making sure you’re safe.  This might mean guns, but self defense courses are also encouraged.  AND most of all being situationally aware.

Your fourth priority is to have enough supplies laid by.  Not the world in supplies, but enough that you can survive a week or two of disruption.

There are other things you can do, like lay by a supply of used gold and tradeables.

In the end these will see you better off than the armed compound in the middle of nowhere.  (Though if that’s an option/you don’t have a job that requires attendance, and you feel you will enjoy it, go for it.)

However, even as you prepare for the worst — or at least the very very bad — keep fighting.  This is no time to go wobbly.  Fight in culture and civil society before you have to fight with weapons.

Be not afraid.  And don’t give up.