Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How to prepare for a total economic collapse

In my first blog entry on economic collapse, I made the assumption that basic goods and services will still be intact, that there are jobs still available, goods and services can still be purchased, just with higher prices and higher unemployment. In this one I explore an even gloomier, although less likely scenario, the complete and utter collapse of the economy.

Although it is unlikely, the weakened state of the United States economy could result in a complete and total collapse of all systems and infrastructure. Unfortunately that is a lot harder to prepare for, as basic law and order may even break down.

There are signs that the coming depression may go that far. Already in some communities in Syracuse, NY, the banks themselves are abandoning foreclosed properties, and shanty-towns are springing up around Los Angeles, CA. These properties, without any owners, are being taken over by vandals and criminals.

Truckers are finding they are making a loss on each trip due to the rising price of fuel, and if this trend continues, interstate shipping will no longer occur. There is already talk of a nationwide trucker strike, and basic economics will force an end to shipping if a strike does not occur.

The crisis could also be triggered is if the government does initiate war with Iran. That will dry up fuel supplies and may easily be escalated to a nuclear conflict, which would lead to counter measures by the rest of the world.

The worst place to be in the event of a complete collapse is inside a city. The first problem would be the food crisis. The larger cities have only a few days worth of food inside them, which would prompt a very hasty and dangerous exodus from the city. Smaller cities can last longer, but eventually the inability to transport food from the farms to the cities will cause panic, mayhem, and eventually starvation.

Meanwhile, out in the rural areas of the country, food panic will not be a problem because that is where the food is grown. Farm towns will not receive fuel for the farm equipment, but at least the food itself will be there. In the country people are also more likely to own large livestock that can be used as alternative means of transportation.

A necessary item to own in the worst case scenario is a firearm, preferably several of them. In a panic and riot it happens that not only are those who have stockpiled resources the subject of looting, but innocent people are often assaulted or killed in random acts of violence. Law enforcement will be too busy combating the population to provide any security, leaving it the job of the individual instead.

For those who do live in the city and want to prepare for the worst, the best advice to give is to purchase an RV, preferably a Class A or Class C (the motorized RVs.) In the event of a crisis the owner of an RV can leave in a hurry. Some people are thinking about acquiring property in remote areas, outside of easy government control. The advantage of an RV is that one can more easily transport the family to those areas, and can also move again if worried about discovery. A place to live is guaranteed no matter where one travels, the only difficulty being the effort to find sufficient fuel and fresh water. If necessary the grey and black tanks of an RV can be dumped anywhere, not just in an authorized drainage facility.

A collapse of this scale will destroy certain concepts of ownership, due to massive property abandonment and the dislocation of the population. There will be a new round of homesteading, recognized primarily by common law instead of government. Those who still maintain ties to the government, such as agents of the Bureau of Land Management or Internal Revenue Service, will find their intrusion to be far less welcome than is currently the case. Conflicts between homesteaders and the military may occur, destroying some communities, but ultimately most areas will be considered beyond the reach of the government.

Those who live close to the ocean can also take advantage of a slightly more expensive, but ultimately more versatile, alternative, and get a yacht. While commonly considered a recreation for the rich, they can also be dwelling places for middle class ocean enthusiasts. With a yacht, one can quickly leave the territorial waters, and simply moving away from the dock enables the owner to avoid any riots that may be happening on the shore. Once in international water, the owner can travel to any country that has a beach to seek safe harbor, or can go to any wild beach and life off the land as a farmer or hunter.

The hope is that events do not grow this bad, but if another war starts or a domestic police state with price controls is established, this does become a possibility.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The police state cannot happen without the police

{After reviewing last week’s post, I felt the topic of the police needed to be explored in much greater depth. If we have a police state, it will be the police who make it possible.)

There are two problems with law enforcement: sins of commission and sins of omission. A crime of commission is when individual officers themselves are guilty of offenses against individual members of the population they are supposed to serve and protect. A crime of omission is when fellow officers do nothing to restrain those officers who are guilty of the crime of commission.

People are being conditioned to not resist the government. That is why the police lately favor an “overwhelming show of force” – sending out a swat team to arrest a single individual. Often these raids occur in the dark of the night, when the targets of the raids are likely asleep and therefore disoriented and unable to react quickly to the raid by doing things such as asking to see a warrant or identifying the assailant before attempting to defend their own home. On services such as YouTube, examples of police brutality are becoming increasingly common and these examples are getting increasingly greater coverage and exposure.

But even swat raids aside people get abused in individual encounters with the police, as in the case of a motorist in Utah being tasered, or a victim of an assault being forcibly stripped in a jail cell, or many other similar incidents which may ultimately cause the police to stop allowing their actions to be videotaped.

All these incidents are good for convincing people of the futility of standing up to the police. While it is the law that if the police officer is acting in an unlawful manner civilians have a right to resist the police, exercising that right would most likely be futile. The only check remaining on police activity is civil (never criminal) cases against the police, which often stick the department (and therefore the city) with the bill. In the most egregious cases officers are disciplined, in that they are suspended (sometimes with pay, sometimes without) or fired for activities that would get anybody else arrested.

Those incidents are crimes of commission. The remainder of the problem is crimes of omission. When an officer commits one of the above offenses, fellow officers should remember that they are supposed to serve and protect the public, but instead rally behind the officer in a show of solidarity. This is often known as “the blue wall of silence”, and any attempt to punish offending officers runs up against a problem: only the government can launch criminal proceedings against those who should be so prosecuted, and those in the government doesn’t do that against their own as often as they should. Only when it becomes so blatantly obvious that government officials are protecting each other that public outcry is impossible to ignore do government officials get targeted, usually a single sacrificial lamb to protect all the rest.

Internal investigations too often clear offending officers, and district attorneys too seldom file criminal charges against criminals with badges. An honest and upright officer should arrest a fellow officer if that officer is also an offender. That is a crime of omission.

There is more to the issue of crimes of omission, an aspect rarely explored but of greater importance. In a divided government such as the United States government, the theory is that any portion of the government can impede the execution of an unjust law. Congress can fail to pass a law, the president can veto a law, and the judiciary can nullify a law. The president can also fail to enforce a law, a principle seldom examined. It is the executive branch that is charged with the task of enforcement. All front line representatives of the government are executive branch agents, whether the agent is a health inspector, a clerk handing out a welfare check, or an officer of the law. Some are representatives of the federal executive, some are representatives of the state executive, and some are representatives of the local city or county executive.

The only way laws are ever enforced is through the actions of executive agents. This is true of both good laws and bad laws. Whether enforced by a single officer or by a swat team, there is no enforcement without the action of executive agents. That applies to citations issued, arrests made, and prosecutions filed.

When onerous or odious laws are passed, it is up to the police to enforce them. Unfortunately too often the police do enforce them, as it is their job – and their job is to do their job. Suggestions that certain laws not be enforced are anathema to many people. Whether the topic is officer nullification or jury nullification the objection is always that the law, no matter how bad, must be obeyed and if one disagrees with the law there are channels within the system to change the law. That a law might be so bad that it should not be enforced is increasingly regarded as a fringe view.

The most common objection to legal nullification is framed as the nullifiers “making up the law”, which is the exact opposite of nullifying a law. When a law is made up, it means the officer or jury is creating a law from scratch to enforce. When an officer can “make up” laws it becomes possible for an officer to say “I will arrest you for the crime of depositing money into your own savings account even though no legislative body has passed such a law.” Nullification is the opposite. Nullification is the officer saying “I will not arrest you for depositing money into your own savings account even though a legislative body passed such a law.” The law is made up by the proper procedure, it is simply not enforced. There is no law creation in nullification, either by the officer or the jury.

The other objection is that the police officer might fail to arrest for actual crimes because the criminal is a close friend. That happens already. That happens every time an officer fails to arrest a fellow officer and every time a district attorney fails to file charges against an officer. It is impossible to completely eliminate all corruption from the system. If the ability of a good officer to ignore bad laws is eliminated, it has absolutely no effect on a bad officer to ignoring good laws, an argument parallel to the self defense argument of “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” That objection is no reason to prevent an officer from being allowed to actually think, actually make conscientious decisions regarding the laws they are called upon to enforce.

Politicians actually do not enforce any laws. Some of them, before their political careers, were in the military or the police, but currently none of them lift a finger to actually enforce laws. Many leaders of dictatorships are accused of “killing millions”, but in truth they personally killed very few people – they only ordered others to kill. None of the commanders in a war actually kill enemy soldiers; they rely on their own soldiers to do so for them. President Truman did not drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a pilot did. Without the police, politicians truly are impotent. The police state is truly dependent upon the police. That is why in any conflict between any officer and anyone outside the power structure, the government sides with the officer.

Those who desire a police state have two things to fear, an informed jury and an informed officer. Those who fear a police state have one thing to fear, an unthinking officer. When the police state arrives, it will be due largely to the sins of omission of the officers involved, without whom the police state would be impossible.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Shining Lights on Bad Practices

For one brief shining moment there was a website where bad police officers could be publicly exposed. The website in question, Rate My Cop, lasted only a few days before government complaints shut it down. Go complain to the hosting company.

There are many websites that purport to expose bad practices in certain demographics, such as Rate-My-Teacher, Rate-My-Neighbor, and the very good Source Watch. Rate My Cop is directed at government, much like Source Watch or Project Vote Smart. The difference is, this is directed at those who actually enforce the rules.

Yes, the police, they are a very special group. They are the ones who actually enforce the laws. Elected officials do not enforce laws. Without the police (and other agents of the executive), there is no police state, and the elected officials become nothing more than caricatures of themselves, blustering impotently about their own importance.

Those who show ire to the police do so knowing that the police are the front line of the government. Anybody who despises police does so knowing, at some level, that the oppression is the result of the police, and that if one is driven to actually resist governmental injustice it will be the police who are the individuals involved in the struggle.

The police are often given the special defense of “just doing their jobs”, as if that were sufficient defense when they enforce bad laws. Suggest that the police should decline to enforce bad laws and the reaction is a furious (and frightened) clamor as people demand to know if that means the police can make up the law on the spot. The fright isn’t so much that police would be able to create law, but that some law somewhere might go unenforced.

To make things perfectly clear, suggesting that the police decline to enforce a law has nothing in common with suggesting that the police can create law.

That website was treated as a threat to the police. Threats to police are threats to the entire power structure of the government. The crimes that are most harshly enforced and punished are crimes against the government, and any equivalent crime without the government as a victim has a less severe punishment.

That being said, the website was not a threat any more than YouTube videos are threats.

That being said, the police are becoming increasingly reluctant to release videos to the public.

All the website did was shine light upon the police and their activities.

So now this brings up another topic, that of essential privacy rights. Some try to make an argument of equivalence between giving officers privacy and giving civilians privacy. The difference is that police officers should be held to a higher standard, instead of the current practice of holding them to a lower standard. Instead of saying “if anyone else did that it would be a crime” the mode of thought should be “for civilians that would be acceptable behavior but you are a cop.”

In the performance of their duties, police should not expect, should not even ask, for privacy. A reluctance for their activities to be exposed shows that they know they should not be doing what they are doing.

There was a time when police were considered public servants. That time seems to be forgotten. Instead it seems the laws apply to everyone except those in power, and of course the front line.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A post-mortem of RonPaul2008

It’s often said by libertarians that if only their message could reach the public it would be accepted, even welcomed, by those who don’t know that there are options beyond the standard two parties. Some say that the libertarian party simply needs better marketing, having the best product but the worst sales team. The apparent elective failure of Ron Paul to secure the Republican Party nomination for President has thrown that into doubt.

Is it appropriate to doubt? Is it truly the case that the product – libertarianism – has been presented and rejected? Arguments could be made either way at this point.

It is undisputed that for the first time since Goldwater there was a candidate that clearly and succinctly desired reduced government in all areas. He averaged about ten percent in the primaries while other candidates soared ahead until the nomination was secured by John McCain whose philosophy is quite antithetical to that of Ron Paul.

The message wasn’t delivered. Even a week before Super Tuesday, I was knocking on doors urging people to vote for Ron Paul, and people were still unfamiliar with him. Those who get their news through the internet were familiar with him. One person I spoke with had no internet connection at all and had never heard of him, after he twice broke fundraising records.

The message wasn’t getting through.

Although included in all but one debate, the time allotments were slanted against him as well, and the choice of questions was manipulated by the moderators. News reports were edited to remove his name before included in newspapers. The evidence is available to anyone who can read the raw stories on the internet.

The one place were Ron Paul was strongest was the internet. The internet was the one place where the message did get through, and it was the one place where he got the bulk of his support.

It is no longer a given that if only the message could get through it would be accepted, but it is not to be rejected yet either.