Thursday, August 4, 2011

So the economy is bad... but do we even need an economy?

No matter how bad the stock market or the economy gets, we will not go back to the middle ages.

Sure, if we look back to the Great Depression, things were bad, but let's compare even that with an even worse period, say, the Dark Ages.

Even at the height of the Great Depression, people were better fed, clothed and housed than during most of human history. It seemed bad only relatively speaking. It is psychologically difficult to adapt to a more precarious financial situation and to a more frugal standard of living. But when one considers the bare essentials of human life, such as oxygen, warmth, water, carbohydrates and protein, a more optimistic outlook emerges.

Try the following experiment. Go to your local outdoor gear store, and have yourself fitted with good boots and hiking gear, pack up some food, and go for a three-day trek through the wilderness.* Turn off your cellphone, hunt/fish your own food, cook it over a camp fire, poop in a hole in the ground and sleep outdoors. You will find that all your needs are met by very simple equipment. As long as you are warm, dry and fed, you can be happy. You don't need a house, or a car, or a cell phone, or a computer. Quite certainly, these things make your life easier and more enjoyable, but by experiencing more primitive living conditions, you will gain a more optimistic perspective over your own life.

Out there, toilet paper is often referred to as 'camp money'. Because money is useless in the wild. A flint, a knife, and a water bottle are much more valuable.

Don't invest in gold. Several financial experts, including Dave Ramsey, will gladly advise you against doing this. The high price of gold is a merely a bubble. Invest in gold at your own risk. Out in the wild, gold is useless. A good steel blade is more valuable. Fresh, clean drinking water even more.

If the economy really tanks and America becomes the new Somalia, you don't want gold. No one is going to take it. You want usable items to trade. Water, food, tools, antibiotics, guns and ammo. Those things will be worth a lot and will make a difference between who is wealthy and who is not.

So take a step back and consider the basics. Hike more, camp more. It will reset your psyche. Your financial situation will seem much more manageable, and give you a more grounded perspective.

Happy trails.

* I know hiking boots are expensive, and are made by large manufacturers with a large distribution infrastructure, but that is not the point I am trying to make. The point is if you go on a three-day hike with bad shoes, you will regret it and your feet will be a mess. 

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