They cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed; their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumbling block of their iniquity.
Economics are important. You may or may not have enough ammo or be fit enough for what’s coming, but I can assure the vast majority of you are nowhere near economically ready. We’re not talking about floating monthly credit card debt or paying the mortgage; becoming prepared for a society reverting to barter is a bit harder than what most folks assume.
Silver and Gold
Far and away, the most common meme among Survivalists and Preppers is to invest in Silver and Gold as a hedge. Every conservative talk radio show advertises it, most forum devotees advocate it, and at least a couple groups over the past ten years have sought to create a parallel currency standard based upon it. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a certain amount of bullion on hand (after all, it is universal currency under certain circumstances) it should not be the primary focus of your economics plan as many seem to profess.
You can’t eat it, you can’t shoot with it, you have to keep it secure when carrying it, and further, to most folks, gold and silver has no common knowledge of value. Seriously. You may know, other people inside your circle may know, but ask Joe Shmo the shop keeper how many ounces of silver the axe in the corner of his store is worth. You may work out a deal in some cases but it won’t be in your favor. The root of the problem lay with the fact that bullion has a daily value based upon whatever it’s traded for in dollar amounts that day; a number that most outside of bullion traders don’t keep up with. They have no need to- everything is currently traded in dollars as a medium. Bullion is an abstract concept that probably won’t yield good results near-term.
Say we experience a banking holiday similar to what was common in the Depression. It’s likely. Bullion values may skyrocket, but most would be unable to keep pace with the rapid changes. Having just bullion as a trade medium, provided the dollar is not an option, may not work. In the early stages of a economic restructuring, bullion may not be the best option.
Barter and Trade
Guerrilla Capitalism is a term I credit to Survivalist author Tom Filecco, and it’s root concept is one that should be embraced and practiced by Survivalists, if not already. In short, it’s an investment in goods or learning trades that will be beneficial post-collapse, as well as being very beneficial now . This requires first thinking outside the box and then recognition that Survivalism requires work- it’s more than just buying a bunch of junk and stuffing it in a bag or hoarding freeze dried food.
Look around your small community. Hopefully by this point you’ve recognized the need to move out into reality (anyplace not inside corporate limits of a city) and you’ve taken the time to meet your neighbors. What are they likely to need, and what can they offer you?
Water. Almost every home out there has some sort of water system reliant on outside infrastructure- Homes in suburbia get their water from a town reservoir, which will be non-existent from a long term power outage and worse will become a potential hazard when not maintained. This is already happening; Flint, MI is not the only place to suffer from communal water issues. Pollution is but one problem; water rights disputes will likely ignite violent conflicts later down the road, and believe it or not nearly do on a regular basis in many small towns. Aside from this, even in rural places, most well pumps run off of electricity. Without the grid, this option for not just drinking water but just as important, sanitation, now becomes a big issue in a hurry.
Rainwater collection is not just a smart option, but a practical one. Large tanks do not cost large amounts of money comparatively speaking. A Norwesco 500gal container can be found locally for around $500. Sell one of those extra AR-15s and invest in one or two. Once installed, it will fill up faster than you expect, and should provide a lifetime of service. Installing two or three, along with a realistic water consumption plan, can become a huge asset to your community. And bringing a sociological aspect to the table, know that a community protects what a community values.
Food. A lot of folks are getting back to raising animals and gardens these days, due to both a mistrust in where their commercial food comes from but also from a sense that something is wrong, similar to what every other creature in nature knows before a storm. While it’s a little bit late into this planting season here in the Southeast, there’s no reason not to take the time starting a small hobby farm, if even indoors. Learn how to build a hoop house, or build a plexiglass greenhouse addition to your home to grow food even in the winter. There’s a high learning curve to all of this, but being able to eat and have an abundance of food for trade is well worth it.
Fire. In the Third world, community stoves commonly serve as anchor points where everyone gathers, not unlike the greasy spoon landmark in every tiny town in the US. Woodstoves used to be common in every rural home, but many modern homes lack alternative heating sources, because after all, it’s messy and requires work. What’s more is that the ability to cook is reliant upon either electricity or Natural Gas, supplied by someone else. When that supply line runs out, how will people cook? Charcoal stoves are nice, but not always the most efficient or durable. Rocket stoves however, even this rudimentary one pictured above, are, and can easily be constructed in minutes. More elaborate designs, like this one, are still relatively simple and can provide a cooking platform for lots of people.
Having a good supply of cast iron cookware to prepare food will create a near-bulletproof meal preparation plan. Ask any Infantryman the morale value of hot food in the field and you’ll quickly get an idea of just how important being able to cook will become. Communities are defined by their food and people build strong bonds based upon it, even today with each Volunteer Fire Department Stew or BBQ fundraiser and the still very important Church Homecomings and Revivals. And taking the time to attend these gatherings creates that collective efficacy which is far more important in hard times than having a bunch of stuff, isolated from everything.
Energy Generation. Having a simple solar setup is one of the easiest ways to get into off-grid energy, as even Harbor Freight sells entry-level equipment that’s fairly well built at a decent price. Even one 45 watt panel can trickle charge batteries needed to keep a QRP radio on the air or cranking tractors to plow the fields.
That being said, many older tractors can easily run off of biodiesel. Even a small refinery like this one pictured can run around $5000, which is not cheap by any stretch but well worth it in the long run. I know a guy locally that has run the same naturally aspirated Chevy diesel hatchback from the 80s on homebrew fuel since he bought it new by just collecting fryer grease from local restaurants and refining it, even creating a small economy selling to people driving older TDIs and simple old diesel trucks. The 6.2 Chevrolet, 6.9 Ford, and 12 valve Cummins are each relatively easy to convert to biodiesel. Being able to produce decent fuel will be a huge asset to farmers, and in turn to your community, post-unpleasantness. It’s complicated, messy, and has a fairly large learning curve (that admittedly I know only a little about), but will become invaluable.
Booze. If there’s one thing the Appalachians are universally known for, its Bootleg Liquor. But what’s not commonly known is that homemade liquor is actually popular pretty much everywhere in the world, even in countries that ban alcohol. Both Iraqis and Afghans drank a good supply of bootleg, despite it smelling like nothing anyone should want a part of. Running a still is a lot harder than it looks, and in some cases can kill the consumer (don’t drink the first run…) but the ability to make alcohol is actually extremely important aside from the social consumption aspects. Even making beer can become an important source of calories and grain storage. As an antiseptic, fuel, or purifier, hard alcohol now becomes very important in a world where the cash is no longer good. In many underground economies now, a gallon of good bootleg can get you some services just as good as cash can. A certain tree service guy I know routinely accepts a pint of good damson wine for cutting dead limbs out of old oaks. He has three fingers on one hand, but he does great work.
Trades. Bringing a skill to the table, especially one that creates needed items, is far more valuable than virtually anything else once the requirements of life are settled. Behind practicing medicine, two of the most important trades that have all but disappeared is traditional blacksmithing and woodworking.
Blacksmithing is one of the most critical skills to any society- the ability to make and repair tools is perhaps the second reason societies advance right behind the advancement of medicine. But the two go hand in hand. Many community colleges offer entry-level blacksmithing and metal fabrication courses, and making the decision to apprentice in the trade will ensure your place as a critical member of any community.
Just as important and just as endangered as blacksmithing is traditional woodworking. Everyone growing up watching PBS knows this guy pictured, Roy Underhill, who’s been a longtime practitioner, writer, and teacher of traditional woodworking skills. The man, like many carpenters I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, is a walking history lesson, with near-encyclopedic knowledge of historical furniture pieces and period correct furniture and the ways that they were made. Even standard carpentry is rapidly becoming a lost art among the days of cheap junk from box stores to furnish homes, but building with no power tools is all but extinct. If you’re in NC and are concerned with carpentry or history at all, you owe it to yourself to visit his stomping grounds around northern Durham. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll learn a lot in the process.
Medicine, as pointed out, is yet another area that modern society has left to the marketplace to our peril. There’s plenty of medicinal value to herbs and other items growing wild; a knowledge that used to be commonplace but has largely been supplanted with frequent trips to the local Urgent Care for simple head colds or allergies. Granted, we’re living longer, but it’s not for taking handfulls of pills advertised on TV. The long leaf Pine for example, provides the source for not just vitamin C in the needles, but antiseptic and primitive would closure with the sap, and small sources of calories roasting the pine nuts. Along with locally made honey, royal jelly and bee’s wax, which is a huge resource in and of itself, picking up Peterson’s Field Guide and a copy of Tom Brown’s Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants can serve as an extremely important resource in the coming days. The best thing to do is pick these guides up and take a walk in the woods looking for the stuff listed in the book.
If you’ve been completely sheltered in suburbia your whole life, I advocate going to a wilderness skills festival or other place where primitive living types like to hang out, and pick their brains on local uses and identification of herbs just for safety’s sake. Don’t eat the mushrooms they may offer you. While most stuff in these guides are pretty straightforward, like anything in nature, there runs the usual risk of misidentification. The ability to make simple medicinal salves and remedies for simple stuff brings large assets to the bartering table.
Items You Should NEVER Barter
There’s a guy locally, around 50 years old, 100lbs overweight, and wears a cool guy wanna-be man-of-action tshirt everywhere, who hoards .22 ammo. Just before he got banned from the local gun shop(which says something because the guy running it is full of crap too), he used to tell everyone how .22 ammo will become the new currency. I laughed in his face when he told me this, and cringe when I see folks advocating it elsewhere.
There is no logic in bartering ammunition under most circumstances. Using something someone can shoot you with as currency is silly. Using it as a trade medium is stupid also from the angle that ammo is a consumable; a tool to be used to either collect game or defend property. Providing it to folks you know and trust for those purposes, in exchange for other products or services they bring to the table, is logical. Aside from this, trading ammo to outsiders should be out of the question. Never do anything that may improve a potential adversary’s leverage on you.
You should never, ever barter tools, unless you’re a Blacksmith who makes them. Your ability to make items defines your survival capabilities, and the more versatile the tools you own, the more diverse your options become. Giving away tools, even in dire situations, can lead to giving up future capabilities. And you can never have enough tools or skills.
You Cannot Do It All
It takes a community. The saying “your neighborhood is your nation” is absolutely true; those small, tight knit towns are the ones that will fare the best in the coming troubles. If you’re blessed to have grown up in one, as I did and still reside, you’re ahead of the game with a few tweaks. If not, the writing has been on the wall for too long now, and that window is closing folks(and for some of you, has closed).
Suburbia is going to suffer the most. They, by and large, have the softest standard of living but lack the means to escape it, unlike the truly wealthy who simply will escape to redoubts in other countries. It is going to be absolute hell, and you will be at the mercy of whatever strongman emerges from the resulting urban squalor. I hope your wives and daughters are fine with that…because when the social controls become removed, the laws of nature will take over.
Do what you can to get yourself there now. Nobody is perfect, and no one can be totally prepared. But by taking a community approach, bringing folks into the fold who have needed skills, your chances now become much higher that your current standard of living will largely remain unchanged. You don’t have to be the wierdo either; look like everyone else, pick up simple skills and ever seek to expand that set, and never stop networking.
I think you’ll find that’s a bit better survival investment plan than just stacking silver and gold. And remember, A Community Protects What A Community Values.