Monday, September 24, 2012

this trend ain't your friend

THIS TREND AIN’T YOUR FRIEND
A minion wrote and asked about earning a living while living on his rural land.  The short answer is he is humped ( on a long enough trend line ).  All those books you bought from Paladin Press and Backwoods Home about selling on E-Bay or mowing lawns or making craft candles?  A waste of money if you follow my simple theory that while the ups and downs are impossible to predict, the general trend is more unemployment and far, far less in the way of disposable income to spend.  This simple trend must be as plain as the thunder thighs on Hilary Clinton, yet most folks tap their heels together three times and chant the magic mantra of petroleum wealth being able to support over 300 million people indefinitely ( a few “realists” will  acknowledge that petroleum is indeed finite yet conjure a few dozen excuses why this won’t effect them yet [ the current is frac oil.  News flash, the first well using fracturing was in 1949.  Technology isn’t coming to our rescue ] and so can smugly ignore this trend ).  This trend will not be your friend and if you count on it being reversed you are going to be humped.  You can sell a niche product or service, by working really hard and getting really lucky, but in the long run you will be a gerbil dying from a heart attack from going faster and faster on your wheel.
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And I’m not just talking “all basically normal until the collapse”.  I’m saying that the collapse won’t happen soon enough to save you from unemployment.  Oh, it could.  But it most likely won’t.  Which means that counting on self employment on your retreat is not a long term viable strategy.  If everything is paid for and if you get rid of all monthly expenses that can bog you down ( if you must have a vehicle, get a moped you can fix yourself as it requires no insurance and consumes one third the gas.  A car payment and insurance is a stone around your neck as you try to stay afloat ), you can make a go of it.  And you might very well earn a decent living ( the example of Prepper Press is an inspiration ).  If you have no expenses, and act as if every month is the month your business folds, you will be okay.  But don’t expect to be able to transfer your middle class lifestyle to the boonies.  Genteel poverty is more like it, and that will take a lot of work.  The days of coasting along on the consumer societies surplus are over.  In the 90’s I was able to eat well and live in a decent shelter for $200 a month.  Nowadays that barely buys a poverty level of food for two. 
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I’m sorry, did you not notice those pesky food and energy price increases?  The ones that happened while your wages were stagnant or declining.  This is the trend.  After four years, the only good parts were when the trend was flat or only marginally moving.  When things don’t get worse, those are the good times.  Now, I don’t subscribe to the scare-mongering about 25% unemployment.  That generally includes under-employment which is misleading.  But it sure ain’t 8% either.  Close enough to Great Depression levels to panic, but you also need to keep in mind that Food Stamps feed us now a lot better than soup lines did back then.  For now, you won’t go hungry ( that will come soon enough ).  But that is the good news.  The bad news is, there will be no getting back to normal.  Don’t expect to get rescued if you hang in there as long as possible.  You will just bleed more resources and savings and sanity.  Look, I’m not trying to dissuade you from giving up on the rat race and leaving town.  I think more people should do so, if for no other reason than the urban areas will get more crowded and the rural will clear out a bit more ( still too many there, just proportionately better ).  Just don’t expect to live on a wage if you do so. 
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I understand that my experiences are not exactly typical.  I might have a micro-business but I know I do all the wrong things to attract money.  Partially this is because I won’t play the game, mostly because I know this is a phase only with about zero income likely soon.  But for what it is worth, business is in the toilet.  This is just like in ‘09.  Nobody had the extra income.  That could change, or not.  But even if it recovers, it will happen again.  And again.  If I had to rely on my writing income to pay for a car and property I would be double humped.  As it is, I have a paying in town job, and that is mainly to keep a wife.  We could survive on no income if needed, but nobody would be very happy.  I have my feet in two worlds.  Living without bills, everything paid for, but working in town to keep the family unit intact ( you are one in a million if you keep a wife without a paycheck ).  Don’t rely on traditional advice for working out in the boonies.  Things have changed and not for the better. 
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On a barely related note, I ran across some figures reading over the weekend that troubled me.  Nothing new, just something I hadn’t paid attention to.  During the Cold War our navy had about 600 ships.  During the 90’s it got down to nearly half that at 350.  You might blame the cigar humping Clinton with his idiotic “peace dividend”, or the traditional American response to the end of any war which is to radically downsize against all common sense.  BUT.  After engaging in two wars, after getting a war monger for a Prez several terms ago, our navy continues to shrink.  Now at 280.  Funny, I didn’t realize we could still control the global oil allotment without a strong navy.  Just something to think about.
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3 comments:

  1. You are spot-on about not relying on traditional advice about income when moving to the boonies. In my neck of the woods (rural Minnesota) I've seen more than a dozen couples in the last twenty years find this out the hard way. They thought they would have a huge vegetable garden and sell at a Farmers Market in a large city (brutal competition - they didn't even cover gas expenses sometimes), or do 'leatherwork' or some such thing and sell that. No customers.

    The ones willing to drive 10 miles to our nearest small town and be a bartender or a Sandwich Artist made it. The others did not, and usually sold their little hobby-farm at a loss to be able to 'escape' back to where they came from.

    When moving to the boonies be willing to do menial work with Rednecks who you may not like. Then you have time to get on your feet without immediate financial pressure.

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  2. Lord Bison.
    I saw in the local fish wrapper (buried in the back pages) that the life expectancy of people in the US of A is now less than in 1990. Another indication of the collapse of empire.

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  3. A very good post. My wife can't for the life of her imagine that, in the small town that we want to move to, with the wonderful qualifications she's getting, there will still be No Work Whatsoever for her - after a Collapse.

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