Preface: As I’ve said before, the more extreme the prediction, the less likely it is to happen. The term, “post-collapse” can imply a myriad of conditions. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume total collapse of infrastructure.
Many people say the producer is king in the post-collapse barter economy – is he? In this article, we’ll take a look at owning the means of production versus offering a service; and how they’ll compete against each other in a barter economy.
Let’s start by defining each. A producer builds, grows, or creates a valuable product – a tomato, a slab of beef, a rifle round, a cabinet. A service provider offers a necessary or desirable trade – mechanic, electrician, carpenter, doctor or nurse.
There are many upsides to being a producer. For instance, a farmer or gardener should never go out of business in a post-collapse barter economy because demand for his products will be high. Not everyone will be an expert gardener; similarly there could be partial or whole crop losses due to soil or drought. Both are going to ease supply. Let’s start with a hypothetical assumption that 50% of your community or area will be self-sufficient for food. That’s an extremely high number but maybe they own chickens, grazing livestock, and have a sizable market garden. If there’s not an immediate need in his or her community, there will surely be demand in neighboring areas. Even before an economic collapse – caused by a spike in fuel prices, a natural disaster, or other systems disruption – food prices are going to rise; we know this, so farming is going to be a great market going forward. The same could be said, to a lesser extent, with products like ammunition and tools.
The downsides to being a producer is that you need the resources, which may become scarce, to build or grow your product. The producer of food is dependent upon weather. The producer of fire arms or ammunition is dependent upon a handful of things because you can’t machine metal if you don’t have it and you can’t re-load rounds if you don’t have gunpowder or primers.
The future is bright on the service side because not everyone can be an expert on everything and not everyone will be physically able to do everything. There are low-level skills, such as chopping and splitting wood; and then there are high-level skills plumbing or electrical wiring. Who among us can climb up on our roof and replace it after a limb falls on it during a storm? Who among us can install solar panels to run our refrigerator, air conditioning, or heater? Who among us can install a pipe and chimney for a wood burning stove? Maybe you can, but not everyone will be able to, which is why, in addition to owning the means of production, you should also invest in yourself and learn a service skill.
The downsides to providing a service is that you work in the elements, which can be particularly harsh depending on the climate and season; you are effectively an employee of the person who hires you; and you are responsible for your work and reputation. The service industry is generally more difficult work and pays a lower wage – again, generally.
So if you consider yourself a “prepper”, in addition to stockpiling food and ammo, consider picking up a second or third skill. It’s going to do you good even if the world doesn’t end.