Go big or go Galt? The suburban parent’s guide to surfing the global economic collapse in style.

WhoIsJohnGaltWhen will the world’s economy crash to dust? Homey don’t play that. But will it fail? Completely? Catastrophically?

I believe in human ingenuity. I celebrate every wonderful thing the mind has done so far, and I have complete confidence that the indomitable human mind is equal to any intellectual challenge.

Here’s even better news: The history of humanity can be expressed as fully-human people desperately trying to out-produce their faux-animal oppressors. Judging by that standard, the slaves are still able to outrun their would be slave-owners.

But: If something can’t go on forever, it won’t. You cannot consume your way to prosperity, not you as an individual and not the world considered as a whole. Is the bad news in the newspaper as bad as the newspaperati make it out to be? Definitely not. But are people justified in their fears for the future?

I think they are. The intellectual problem is easy: Human beings cannot be ruled. They live most peacefully and profitably among each other where they leave each other alone, and they are most miserably impoverished where they are most completely enslaved to the state. This is news to no one, with the world itself as the ever-ready existential demonstration of these facts.

But until our course is reversed, the United States and the world at large will continue to scurry to perdition, waddling in a turbulent haste as only the morbidly obese can do. Politicians will continue to insist that bad checks aren’t really fraudulent if you use them to buy lottery tickets, because, that way, you can buy all your bad paper back when you win. Journalists will continue to transcribe this nonsense, denouncing anyone who points out that it cannot possibly work. And each day we will inch that much closer to the death camps, because that is the only way this road leads.

Want some more bad news? The progress of statism is an intertial mass, so to speak, like an aircraft carrier under weigh or an interstellar probe out in the cometary halo. If we actually manage to reverse our course — and, who knows?, Rand Paul’s recent filibuster may have been the first day of the rest of our lives — we will have to slow this beast to a stop before we will actually begin to move in the opposite direction.

With all that as context, take note of an email I had this morning from Judah Hoover:

Let me ask you a serious question.

Do you think, feel, get the sense, whatever… that people are sick of hearing what they can’t do and how bad things are going to get and just saying “to heck with it, I am going to just go make it happen anyway”.

I like politics, it’s my sport. I enjoy discussing political maneuvering almost as much as I do the ideology behind policies. But at the end of the day all I can do is vote once every two years, well twice if you count the primaries. So it really is just a sport that is fun to watch.

I think over the past ten years politics has become a distraction, people are tuning out and diving back in to business… even though DC has created a crappy environment. I hear a lot of people saying stuff like “they aren’t going to make it easy, but at least I know what the new, sucky rules are. Time to go to work, gotta provide for my family, business is the only way I know how to do that.”

And this new re-commitment to business is what is driving some of the positive economic data. The American business man is very resilient. Eventually people will “go Galt” but I don’t think we are there yet.

Any truth to this or am I just being my usual hopelessly optimistic self?

I am all in favor of smart, practical people finding ways to be productively optimistic — hopefully anticipating profitable yields from their constantly-cultivated investments in the future. If anything like this is behind recent positive economic news, then, please, give me excess of it. Investing in your own future is the right thing to do, regardless of your external circumstances, so do play on.

That much is strategy — more what than how. The tactical consideration right now is realizing the best possible results from your investments in your future while losing as little as possible to the parasitism of the state. If you have twice as much food as you need, when ants walk away with ten percent you may not even notice the loss. But if you have only half of what you need to begin with, you will attend very seriously to loss-mitigation.

So my big-picture answer to Judah is pretty simple: Look out for your own.

Go big or go Galt? My answer: Why not do both?

Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged is fiction. The collapse of western civilization is accelerated in the book for dramatic purposes, and the idea of “going Galt” — completely removing oneself from economic society — is a plot device designed both to effect and to explain this rapid descent into savagery.

But the essence of going Galt is not working in a railroad yard or a roadside diner, but working in such a way that you create as little loot — wealth to be stolen by looters — as possible. You don’t renounce living, just living as a slave. Going Galt means finding ways to create the wealth you and your loved ones require to live self-adoring lives while leaving as little as possible behind for parasites to expropriate.

With those words ringing in your ears, what does this week’s announcement of plans to give every “rich” bank depositor in Cyprus a haircut suggest to you about the safety of your own bank accounts? Your securities accounts? How much “wealth” do you “own” solely as book-keeping notations? What will happen to that money when Washington runs out of “rich” people to despoil.

Should you stuff all your dough under the mattress? Don’t be daft. By the time the Feds get around to stealing your paper money, it won’t be worth anything anyway. But: Diversify! It’s hard to get away from paper investments, but going Galt prosperously will oblige you to convert some of your assets to real stuff: A defensible home, plus beans, bullets and bullion.

Did he say go Prepper? You can take this stuff too far, but having the means to weather the first days of an economic collapse could save the lives of the people you love most. The safest home you could own is on an isolated piece of dirt no one else knows about — off the grid and self-sufficient in energy, food and water. I know where that house is, if you want to buy it. But you probably won’t be able to make an on-the-grid living from there.

What’s an acceptable trade-off, for now? Passive security systems, a home-defense plan and a bug-out plan. Quality firearms, lots of ammunition and regular serious shooting-range practice for everyone over the age of eight. A supply of non-perishable food and as much water as you can store. And jewels or precious-metal coins to be used in barter, should that be necessary.

That’s a disaster plan, sort of, but it’s just one piece of your plan to break your chains. Getting a roof-mounted solar electrical-power-generating system is disaster-tech later, but it’s independence-tech now; the power company manages to fail without waiting for the rest of the economy to go down with it. A backyard well would be a good thing, too, if this is something you can do where you live. Every major purchase you make should take account of how that item will enhance or diminish your independence. It’s foolish to burn your money just to avoid having it stolen from you, but if spending a little more buys you a little more flexibility, now or in some chaotic future, the investment might make sense.

Should you be growing your own food? Only if you like that kind of work.

Should you be reloading your own shotgun shells? Not if you’re not doing that already, although it can’t hurt to suss out which of your neighbors is an amateur gunsmith.

Should you be hiding in the root cellar with a clove of garlic in one hand and a crucifix in the other? This does not strike me as being a self-adoring way to confront the future and its portents.

What you should be doing, if you want to best assure your family’s health, wealth and safety, is producing as much wealth as you need, ideally surrendering as little of that as you can in taxes.

Should you work real hard and get as rich as Croesus? Only if that’s what you were doing already. The rich will be expropriated first, obviously, as the Cypriots are discovering. Big piles of money may or may not make your life easier after a collapse, but they are likely to make your way much harder on the path to the cliff’s edge. And any fortune held in a currency is worth precisely what traders are willing to offer in exchange for it. A luxurious life can be delightful, but any paper money you don’t spend today may be worthless tomorrow.

Avoiding taxation is a value, but not an unbounded one. I owe a great deal to Ayn Rand, but I think her egoism is ultimately other-centric, as we can see in the idea of going Galt: There is a degree to which Rand’s approach to economic justice can be self-destructive. Surely I do not want to feed my despoilers, but if I pass on the income I need to sustain my life and provide for my family in order to avoid creating a taxable event, I am acting to my own destruction in order to inflict a negligible injury on my enemies.

In the long run, it were well to structure your investments so that taxation is deferred or diminished, but it is anegoic to refuse to harvest your grain because you know ants are going to carry some of it away, and it is anegoic to refuse to make the money you need to live because parasitic kleptocratic statist thugs are going to try to steal some of your earnings.

Here’s the real deal, the absolute best advice anyone can give anyone, in only four words: Keep your own counsel.

You do not owe your life to anyone except the people you have explicitly promised it to: Your spouse and your children. If you invest your money and your time and your thought in ways that benefit the state (or any other claque of other people) but hurt your family, you are betraying your interests and values in your despoilers’ behalf. Those folks will be more than happy to profit from your voluntary self-destruction, but you and yours are likely to be less than ecstatic.

Look out for your own. You owe the people you have promised to love and protect your unlimited love and protection, and, accordingly, all of your forward-looking decisions should anticipate that every social structure outside your home could fail, at least temporarily, all at once. You need to be prepared for that emergency, even if it never happens, and you should take account of your future independence with every choice you make.

Are people consciously acting on these philosophical premises? Virtually none of them.

Are they acting on these premises anyway, guided by their gut feelings? You bet.

I don’t know if any of this activity is accounted for in the economic news, but we will all be very grateful, should the worst fates befall us, for our neighbors’ foresight — and for our own.

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