|Beans and Bullets and Bear Markets. Oh my!|
|by Wendy McElroy|
It used to be that only survivalist "cranks" and their sympathizers expounded on 'the coming economic collapse' that would devastate society. Intellectually-speaking, people would cross to the other side of the street when they saw such an exponent coming.
Now the Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker is ringing the fiscal alarm bell by using phrases like "going broke" and "out of control". Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, chairman of the economics department at Boston University, has co-authored a book entitled The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future.
What does the arrival of 'respectable' advocates do to the claim that America is teetering on or has fallen over an economic precipice? What does it do to associated claims such as the need to stockpile food or to own a gun to defend your family and property?
First of all, what exactly are the respectable advocates saying?
Walker offers a snapshot of the current situation.
The American government is running a $470 billion operating deficit for this fiscal year. Its total fiscal exposure is $46.4 trillion. Meanwhile, America's total household net worth is $51.1 trillion. In other words the ratio of national debt to personal net worth is over 90%. This translates into a financial burden of $156,000 per person or $375,000 per full-time worker.
His solution: through computer simulations, Walker demonstrates that balancing the budget by 2040 would require a 60% cut in total federal spending or a 200% increase in federal taxes.
Kotlikoff focuses on the burden that payouts to baby boomers (e.g. Social Security) will place on the younger generation and he predicts "economic catastrophe." For example, 33 million people currently receive a SS check that averages $23,000 a year. Four years from now, 77 million people will be collecting a check. That increase will hold steady over the next 30 years; the older population will remain double that of today while the younger generation will increases at a modest rate of about 18%. When Medicare and other 'elder entitlements' are added on, the tax burden on the younger generation not only amounts to "fiscal child abuse" but also cannot be sustained.
His solution: the size of liabilities versus resources to pay means that catastrophe can be averted either by a 78% increase in taxes or an immediate slashing in half of all benefits to the elderly.
No politician who wishes re-election would entertain the drastic solutions offered by Walker or Kotlikoff. The only other way the government can even temporarily prop up programs like Social Security is to speed up the printing presses that issue money -- money that is worth slightly less with each dollar printed. By doing so, they are setting the stage for hyper-inflation to wipe out both savings and the decent standard of living now enjoyed by the average person.
Neither Walker nor Kotlikoff use the incendiary language of survivalist 'cranks' nor do they suggest options like living in the woods with a good supply of ammunition. Instead, they extend governmental solutions to a governmental problem. To the extent individuals are offered advice, it is about which investment strategies will best protect assets. Nevertheless, the essence of their economic message is remarkably similar to that of survivalists. Very bad times -- perhaps even economic collapse -- are just around the corner. But a detailed vision of how individuals can best ride out an economic storm remains the purview of those with survivalist sympathies.
The vision is sometimes reduced to the phrase 'beans and bullets', meaning that people should provide for themselves both the means of sustaining life (e.g. a stockpile of food) and of protection; usually, protection translates into owning a gun which is the most effective form of self-defense.
In times of crisis, a gun may not only not save your life it may also be necessary to preserve those things upon which staying alive depends: food, currency, a car, a dwelling. Society need not dissolve into a nightmare scenario with roaming bands of desperate looters for this to be true. All that is necessary is for crime to increase and, during economic crisis, crime predictably soars. Criminals -- who may be decent people in other circumstances -- will target those people with resources and without defenses. After 9/11 for example, many of the businesses located near the World Trade Center were looted because they contained valuables and lacked security.
The police will not protect you. The police were at the World Trade Center and their proximity did not prevent looting. Even today, in a time of relative prosperity and calm, a police car usually arrives long after someone has broken into your home to steal or attack you.
Moreover, in times of crisis, a policeman on your doorstep may well be there to confiscate your gun. One of government's responses in times of crisis, such as war or economic collapse, is to impose strict gun control. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans police officers confiscated firearms from lawful owners, stripping those people of self-protection. Although some pro-gun organzations launched a campaign demanding that police chiefs and mayors across America pledge not to confiscate legally-owned weapons after disasters, it is folly to believe politicians would keep such a pledge. Even a law against such confiscation is likely to be ignored or repealed in a flash.
At the risk of using a hackneyed example, gun confiscation in Nazi Germany offers a valuable lesson. The Constitutional Law attorney Stephen P. Halbrook writes, "It is instructive at this time to recall why the American citizenry and Congress have historically opposed the registration of firearms. Registration makes it easy for a tyrannical government to confiscate firearms and make prey of its subjects. After invading [other countries], Nazis used pre-war lists of gun owners to confiscate firearms and many gun owners simply disappeared. Following confiscation, the Nazis were free to wreak their evil on the disarmed populace, such as on these helpless Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto." The Nazis were no gentler to German citizens who resisted gun confiscation/control (see the JPFO book Death by "Gun Control" and the JPFO documentary Innocents Betrayed).
At the same time in America, a gun-friendly Congress rejected a proposal for the national registration of all firearms. Rep. Edwin Arthur Hall stated his opposition, "Before the advent of Hitler or Stalin, measures were thrust upon the free legislatures of those countries to deprive the people of the possession and use of firearms, so that they could not resist the encroachments of such diabolical and vitriolic state police organizations as the Gestapo, the OGPU, and the Cheka."
With gun registration now mandatory in several states, a Congress that sits during crisis is unlikely to balk at a national registry or the confiscation of all guns on record.
Returning to the questions posed earlier in this article: What does the arrival of 'respectable' advocates do to the claim that America is teetering on or has fallen over an economic precipice? What does it do to associated claims such as the need to stockpile food or to own a gun to defend your family and property?
Regarding the first question, it means that the majority of people no longer have an excuse to dismiss the bottomline message of survivalists: you must be able to provide for yourself and for your own protection. Regarding the second question, the respectability factor doesn't extend to the associated claims. Indeed, I suspect both Walker and Kotlikoff would object strenuously to having a connection drawn between their arguments and the advisability of gun ownership; they want governmental solutions.
Their objections are beside the point because their arguments lead directly to the advisability of owning a gun. And buying it now, not later.
Economic hardship is staring you in the face. Whether it brings a 'war' between the generations, between the haves and have-nots, between individuals and government, one fact remains constant: you and your family have a better chance of weathering the crisis if you are holding a gun.