Liberty Commentary

How Many Shoes?

by Tom Baugh, DumpDC

Imagine the following. Assume that the world has collapsed into chaos, and among the many survivors are two individuals in particular: Survivor A and Survivor B. Survivor A has ten pairs of shoes stored for the collapse, while Survivor B has a thousand pairs of shoes socked away. Survivor A takes loving care of each pair, while Survivor B runs his shoes hard, wearing them out and then grabbing another off the shelf.

Question: After fifty years, how many shoes does each survivor have to pass on to his grandchildren?

Think hard. Hint: this is a trick question.

Answer: No shoes remain fifty years hence. It doesn’t matter how many shoes you store away, or how much care you put into them, after five decades the materials in them are shot. They may still look like shoes, but wear them for a week or so and the truth will be told. Neither survivors’ grandchildren will have any shoes. Assuming that each survivor and his children and grandchildren lived long enough to notice, of course.

No shoes. Or tires. Or grease. Or tractors. Or root canals. Or just about anything you care to name. Except maybe chickens or goats or unfired rounds of ammunition buried somewhere, the owner long dead. And even those would be suspect if unearthed one day.

At some point, Roman nobles, seeing their aqueduct and road contracting businesses starting a downturn, decided to raise a few chickens. Two or three generations later these families were chicken farmers. There isn’t anything wrong with being a chicken farmer, of course, but it helps to have roads upon which to transport those chickens to market and water to give them along the way. But, no one knew how to build or maintain these things any more. Besides, most of the stones in those roads and aqueducts which remained had been pried loose for building huts. Such is the end-state of a slow collapse. Life gets hard fast, and stays that way, if you are just one of millions of chicken farmers with no other professions to be found.

A collapse isn’t all bad, though. It is an excellent mechanism for getting rid of undesirables, particularly those undesirables who expect, and now demand with increasing fervor, to be given everything you have ever earned in your life. And everything you have yet to earn in the future. And everything your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and so on, have yet to earn. When you are a productive economic slave, a collapse is a really good thing. I would rather live free and by my wits post-collapse, rather than continue in a gilded gulag under the lash of civility and perverted law.

The question is, what kind of collapse do we need? Rather than a slow, dwindling collapse that the Romans suffered, which led to the Dark Ages, I would prefer a fast, deep and short collapse that thins the herd of those who will do nothing for their own self-interest, or who would actively get in our way, and still leaves enough stuff on the shelf so we can get shoe production going again. With the slight change of having learned to be intolerant, post-collapse, of the gulag-
masters, of course. Who exactly those gulag-masters are, and how they should be handled, I’ll save for another time, but you probably have a good idea already.

If you are a gulag-master reading this for the purpose of figuring out how to entrap your fellow man into a gulag of one form or another, you may want to consider taking on a new line of work before it is too late. Certain resumes are likely to be “not entertained” when the time comes. For you gulag-masters, continuing on your current course and speed is tantamount to gambling that your gulag system will remain intact forever. Seeing this, many of us decided to start a casino for taking your bets. Step right up, my friends.

Note: Nothing you will ever hear me say advocates any violence or other illegality, not so long as the federal government of the United States remains in effect and in force. What happens after that tenure expires, however, is a totally different discussion. Of course, under those conditions, and absent those federal laws, certain actions would no longer be illegal, would they? Particularly if certain enterprising State Governors and Legislators decided to call upon a militia for various lawfully constituted purposes. If you live in a state in which these positions aren’t occupied by individuals so inclined, consider various means by which you might hire, in-extremis, some who are.

So now let’s shift gears a little bit. If you’ve read much of my work, you know that I am keen on uncovering reality by performing experiments. Here’s another. Go to a gun show, then walk around and ask people the following series of questions. If the answer to each question is in the negative, stop asking questions and move on.

a) Do you think there is going to be a collapse of law and order?
b) Do you think that weapons and ammunition are going to be an essential component to surviving that collapse?
c) Will it be essential to restart the economy after a collapse?
d) What skills will you bring to a post-collapse world to be able to thrive in that economy?

Now, because you asked these questions at a gun show, affirmative answers to a) and b) should be obvious. The last two are where it gets interesting. We’ll get back to some likely answers you will encounter, and their implications, later in this article.

I think you will agree that what we are about to enter can best be described as a period of armed conflict. The potential initiators for this conflict are numerous and, again, a topic for another article, but the end result of all of these initiators will be the same: a period of wide-spread brush- fire wars.

People go to war to achieve a desired end-state. Some may argue that wars have been started as an ends in themselves to benefit various bankers or war industries. But even those wars achieve a desired end-state: the enrichment of the war-backers. Defensive wars, whether large and multi- national, or small and contained within the borders of your property, achieve the end-state of a nation, or you and your family remaining alive and your property intact. Or not. Other wars involve the end-state of satisfied vengeance. Or not.

In the crisis which draws closer each day, we have an unprecedented opportunity to achieve an end-state unique in all of human history, challenged only by the end-state attained by the Founders in the Revolutionary War. We now have the benefit of history which they lacked. To see what this end-state requires, we must first tie together our previous shoe discussion and our gun show survey.

Clearly, the way to solve the shoe crisis five decades out is to start making shoes again. We could get together and declare a War on Bare Feet, but that would, like any centralized economic plan, be self-defeating. No, the best way to start making shoes again is to defend property rights, not only your own property but that of your fellow citizens as well. Note that criminals who stole property do not have a right to the property they stole as it isn’t theirs. This applies to criminals at all levels; the individual who stole your chicken, the gulag-masters who stole your guns, the progressives who stole your rights, the arch-conservative who stole your ability to compete by tilting the balance of regulation toward his and his friends’ larger and larger enterprises, the banker who stole your home by manipulating credit availability after lobbying for tighter bankruptcy laws, and the politicians who abetted all of these. And the hundreds of millions of people who went to the polls and put those politicians in place thinking that by placing the chain around their necks they would at least get a few more shiny things from the stuff they stole from you after your neck was chained, too.

This is an electorate who will keep doing exactly the same thing, no matter what pin they put on who. Because they surround us, and are getting more numerous by the day. Each time someone decides that they would rather hang onto that government job, and just look the other way to keep that paycheck flowing as your rights and property are stripped away from you, their ranks have swelled just a little. And then swell a little more as those people use that largess to influence others who sell them goods or provide them services, and so on. We have passed the tipping point, and there is no turning back from the course we are on. There is an ultimate solution to this question, however. But it takes a collapse to get there.

You and your children and your grandchildren, ad infinitum, will get more shoes by protecting the property rights of the cobbler who will go into business to make shoes in exchange for food. And the property rights of the tanner who will provide the cobbler material in exchange for shoes, and the butcher who will provide the tanner hides in exchange for shoes and leather, and the farmer who will feed them all in exchange for shoes, leather, dressed meat and so on. This is what our Founders intended when they set up our system the way they did. But they could not know the last two centuries and what happens once property rights are violated. And how the monkeys, left-wing, right-wing, welfare or suited, breed out of control when that happens. Or maybe they did, but we just stopped paying attention because we got our shiny things, too, and ignored the monkeys of all stripes, and the threat they really are.

Now back to our gun show. After our subject agreed that a collapse is on the way, and said that arming himself was essential, we asked question c) about restarting the economy after a collapse.

Some, out of frustration and ignorance over what free markets and property rights are really about, will be opposed to anything that sounds “economic.” Having been subjected to endless artificial obstacles their entire lives, who could blame them? And yet, members of this gun show subset are arming themselves without the least inkling of how or why to provide value to others, or the value of an economy that our cobbler, tanner and butcher might enjoy. Some of these imagine that they are just going to live off the land and take what they need, from you or others if necessary. This latter subset is really just a gulag-master who, because of birth or circumstance, never got his hand on the gate-latch. Proceed accordingly.

Others in your sample group will answer the third question in the affirmative and want an economy restarted. Ask these people whether this means the current economy and all its trappings, such as home mortgage interest deductions, sales taxes, regulations, health insurance, etc. Many people at this point will hit a brick wall and want something other than what we have now, but not be able to articulate it. This is not their fault, and is merely a product of having been caged, mind, body and spirit, for so long. Many of them are probably some of those who get shiny things from you, but just don’t realize it. If they do realize it, your experiment will be over quickly as they walk off in a huff. Particularly when you ask that last question.

That last question is where the rubber hits the road. Some heavily-armed types will imagine that they will merc themselves out to protect the farmer and the cobbler and the tanner. Yet, here we are right back into the whole standing-army argument, which then requires taxation and administration. And that requires something for those mercenaries, or their bureaucratic beneficiaries, to do when there are no real bad guys. Such as manufacturing bad guys. Bad guys like you. This is not the desired end-state.

Better, as the Founders understood, was that the cobbler and the tanner and the butcher and so on, sprout a pair and be willing to go out and, militia-style, handle the bad guys when needed. But we’ve been bred away from that to the point that the few of us who remain are now expected to pop-up, as if on a live-fire range, as convenient targets for destruction when they come to take our guns. Assuming they find them all, of course. Even so, if you have sufficient knowledge, however, “armed” doesn’t necessarily mean “with a gun,” which is one reason they don’t teach science and chemistry worth a damn anymore. Meat and bone succumb to many things other than bullets. Besides, the bad guys will always have plenty of guns and bullets and armored vehicles.

We have to start looking at them as mobile supply depots from whom we can requisition material any time we choose. That requisition takes many forms, of course.

Killing is far easier than creation. That is why it takes years to train a master cobbler or tanner or butcher or farmer or machinist or nuclear engineer, but only weeks or months to train a killer. We just have to accept that sometimes it’s best to park the Abrams out back of the shoe-shop, and let the local kids joy-ride it from time to time in that fallow field so that next year we’ll have tank drivers and tank commanders. Tank drivers and commanders who can also tan leather or build machines to drive cobbler needles or split atoms. And a tank can pull a hell of a combine, to boot. Tough guys who can’t create aren’t worth much. Creators who are tough, on the other hand, will inherit the earth. Unless we decide not to, which would be a shame. Note that someone who lacks knowledge, but is willing to work, actually work to provide value, is also a creator. This person once was an apprentice to a master, and who one day would become a master himself.

Which brings us to our last set of respondents, those who understand that they individually need to bring skills, knowledge and effort (stored trade goods don’t count) to the table of that post-
conflict economy, but who despair that they don’t want to live a mid-1800s existence. I don’t blame them, I don’t either. Not while there are all those great machines left lying around. Machines we can use to build other machines before the first set rusts away. Or before someone builds a chicken coop out of it because the collapse is drawing out too long. But at least this set of people know that they need to prepare their minds as well as their arms. Some of them are actually proceeding in this direction, but your poll will tell you how few and far between they really are, even in such a heavily-weighted group as gun-show attendees.

I’m out of room for now. But in a later article we’ll talk about how to not live a mid-1800s existence; that story involves an interesting rock in Alabama that we aren’t allowed to use. And along the way we’ll tease that desired end-state out of hiding, which will allow us to concentrate our fires during said crisis in a manner best calculated to attain it.

Tom Baugh