How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It

I am a survivalist, and by nature a survivalist is an optimist…[i]t is difficult to find any well-recommended historian, economist, political scientist, sociologist, or military strategist that will predict that disasters are not inevitable, yet we survivalists dare to be optimistic about the future. We survivalists do not need to predict the probability of disaster any more than we need to predict the sun setting…[t]he survivalist can not lose because his survival preparations will be of value regardless of what the future has in store[t]oday’s survivalist is an asset to his community and to the world and should be proud to say, ‘I am a survivalist.’

James Jones



Not entirely unlike Objectivism, I’ve had my own experiences with survivalism. Although I never self-identified as an Objectivist, I have described myself as a survivalist in the past, which I wouldn’t say anymore to be true. That being said, I am familiar with the subject matter of emergency prep, given my previous experience as a Boy Scout.

During my survivalist days, I started out as a “Rawlesian” because I honestly thought there were no other options, until I ran across Jack Spirko’s “modern survival” school of thought, which suited me a lot better; for example, I disagreed that “charity is a moral imperative,” yet I agreed that taxation is theft. While things like “civilization is a thin veneer” and “exploit force multipliers” are precepts I think are validly true, following Rawlesianism consistently to the letter is a bit comical to me, to be honest. Given that I’m now pursuing vonuence, let’s just say worrying about doom porn is one thing I don’t do anymore like I used to back in the day.

The author of Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse wrote a non-fiction book on how to practice Rawlesian survivalism. Right off the bat, he recommends living at your bug-out location (BOL) year-round by saying that:


“An eleventh-hour Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) is a bad idea. Even if you have 90 percent of your gear pre-positioned at your retreat, there is the prospect of never making it there safely. Or if you arrive days or weeks late, on foot, you may find your retreat occupied by armed squatters who are gleefully eating from your carefully planned deep larder. Being forced to abandon a vehicle and travel on foot is a dicey proposition, at best. I strongly recommend that readers live at their retreats year-round – even if it means giving up a high-paying big-city job.”


He goes on to describe that if you can’t (or won’t) move out to rural America, then the next best thing you can do is practice bugging out, even to the point of doing real bug-outs during false alarms under the guise of the precautionary principle (“better safe than sorry”). Most of the rest of the book is developing this BOL largely through off-grid power, non-petroleum homesteading, and home hardening.

It’s almost as if he considers a BOL to be the equivalent of what I can only describe as a retreat stronghold; if anything, it runs contrary to the typical privacy adage of “movement is safety” (to be fair, though, the privacy advocates don’t give a damn about TEOTWAWKI as they are more concerned with the here and now, so perhaps the difference in strategy between Rawles and privacy advocates is that he’s more concerned about hypotheticals whereas they care about concretes). Thankfully, Rawles does compare and contrast in-town with isolated retreats, yet the former is a delicate balancing act, for he says:


“If opting for in town, carefully select a town with a small population – somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 if it has a true end-to-end gravity-fed water supply, or from 200 to 1,000 if the water system is in any way dependent on the power grid. A population of more than 1,000 presents additional sanitation problems. Towns larger than 3,000 people lack a cohesive sense of community, and any town with a population smaller than 200 lacks a sufficient mix of skills and the manpower required to mount an adequate defense in the event of a true worst case. At some point over the 3,000-inhabitant threshold, it could be every man for himself. It is therefore best to avoid larger towns.”


This is suggestive more of what Claire Wolfe recommended back in 2010 regarding strategically relocating to a small town. Rawles himself also admitted that even if you opted for the isolated retreat, you’d still have to double-up (or even triple-up) with other families in order to provide for 24/7 (& 360-degree) security during TEOTWAWKI; Rawles is definitely of the opinion that movement is dangerous.

Whether you’re in a small town situation or in a militant commune, Rawles’ precept of “there is strength in numbers” undergirds both retreat approaches. I have a serious problem with this, given the existence of disingenuous activists and controlled schizophrenics alike. Unless you practice good security culture by judiciously vetting and ostracizing individuals as you see fit, I think it’s far more likely that your own SHTF scenario will be dysfunctional relationships rather than the barbarians at the gates, which is why I think the “preppers” depicted in Rawles’ Patriots novel are more accurate as fiction rather than any sort of realistic characterizations.

One particularly good chapter, though, was about financial preparedness. There were sections within this chapter about bartering/investing in tangibles and “depression-proof” jobs, but the one on entrepreneurship was the most intriguing to me:


“I often encourage folks who are preparedness-minded to develop a second income stream with a home-based business. Once you have that business started, then start another one…[a] successfully recession-proof home-based business is likely to be one in which the demand for your goods and services is consistent – even in a weak economy…[k]eep in mind that if you choose publishing or another mail-order venture selling something compact and lightweight, then you can take advantage of a national or even global market. But if you are selling a service or a relatively bulky or heavy hand-crafted item, then your market will be essentially local, so choose your venture wisely.”


Isn’t this just financially independent early retirement? If so, then why wait for the apocalypse before becoming a start-up (or even “lifestyle”) entrepreneur? Eric English advised his viewers years ago that money is the most important thing to stockpile for economic collapse or SHTF, so that’s suggestive maybe “preppers” ought to be entrepreneurial first before “prepping” in the conventional sense by buying tons of consumer items to just then stuff into a closet somewhere.

An impression I get from Rawles’ book is that off-grid homesteading is the chief goal here for how to survive TEOTWAWKI; however, if true, then why wait around for it to occur first? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just become an off-grid homesteader now because it’s a form of self-liberation that’ll make you vonuer? This might be more indicative of the fact that I am neither a big fan nor a serious practitioner of “retreatism” any longer, given that any changes in my lifestyle are not predicated on coming catastrophes as a form of disaster insurance, despite the fact that the retreatists and I use many of the same techniques, which Rawles’ book is chock-full of, thankfully.

James Rawles’ How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It is a somewhat useful “how-to” for developing what could become a vonuum. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no guidance on how to discover the people you ought to associate with, either in the context of a small town or against the backdrop of a militant commune stronghold. I’d recommend you look past Rawles’ collective-movementism by applying what you can of his suggestions individualistically, given that (to loosely quote Rayo) you can forget about the herd and become free once you have exorcised the collectivist spooks from your head.

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