At one time or another, we all dream about what we’d do if we had a million dollars or more. While most people tend to think about buying a new house and a new car, most preppers I know tend to fit some preps they’d love to do into their list. More than anything, they seem to talk about having a real survival retreat somewhere, usually a cabin in the woods or a bunker, and some sort of fancy bug out vehicle.
I have to say, I’m no different. While I would probably pay off my house before anything else, there would be plenty left over from that million to take care of buying a cabin in the woods and a good four-wheel-drive vehicle. My prepping would definitely take a leap upwards with those purchases.
Of course, there are those who don’t have to dream about what they are doing, as they are already living the dream. A surprising number of these people, mostly owning companies located in Silicon Valley, have joined the ranks of preppers, even though their preps may look very different than those of you and I.
In a way, those people are what we all aspire to be, having the money to prep the way they want to, rather than having to do it on a shoestring. But that only goes so far. I seriously doubt that many of them are learning as much about survival as the average prepper does. They’re used to paying for others to do things for them, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they are approaching prepping the same way; paying for what they want.
A large part of what they’re paying for is the kind of survival retreat that you and I dream of having. Apparently these people think that if they can just get away when things go bad, they’ll be all right. I’m not so sure about that, as their money won’t do much good if there is a true collapse of society.
To be honest with you, I’m not real sure how well these people will do, mostly because I don’t believe that they are learning the necessary survival skills. I seriously doubt that they’ll have someone who can do everything for them, when they are unable to pay for that help. But then, on the other hand, most of these people are first-generation wealthy, so they weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Therefore, they probably have some skill at working with their hands.
What bothers me about these wealthy people prepping is that I don’t know their motivation. These people aren’t the type to follow a trend; they’re the type to set one. The things that you and I are concerned about might not be of any concern to them. I seriously doubt that they are seeing things the same way that you and I are.
We live in a technological society. As such, these are the people who are shaping our future, through the technology they are developing. This puts them in the position of having access to information that we don’t, even if it’s just information about the new technological trends that will affect our future. Clearly that information isn’t making them feel very comfortable.
That discomfort is causing them to find their own ways of bugging out. From what I’m seeing, none of them are preparing to bug in, building bunkers beneath their homes; rather, they’re all making plans to bug out in one way or another. We'll talk about the "how" in a minute.
But right now I want to concentrate on what we can figure out about the "why" of their actions. They don't talk about that a whole lot, at least, not amongst us outsiders, but they do talk a little. What information has come to light seems to be focused on the risk of social unrest and a general breakdown of society, not whether or not Kim Jong-un is going to lob a handful of nukes at us.
This leads my analytical mind to wonder why they are so concerned about a breakdown in society. Once again, I am forced to question what they might know, that the rest of us don't.
Manufacturing Job Loss
If there's one thing that technology tends to do, while its making life supposedly better for us all, it's that it puts people out of work. In fact, it's not uncommon for technological advances to put a lot of people out of work. When the rail industry switched from steam locomotives to diesel ones, it put thousands of boilermakers out of work, as the new diesel locomotives didn't have boilers. Likewise, the personal computer has put countless secretaries and clerical staff out of work. Examples are endless, as each technological breakthrough has unintended consequences, often paid for in lost jobs.
Those people who lose their jobs can't just be retrained to take the new jobs either. In some cases, they don't have the necessary base of skills or ability to learn the new job. Even more than that, one of the things that drives technology is reducing cost, generally labor cost. So, even if they could be retrained, there wouldn't be a need for as many of them.
This has been seen in the loss of manufacturing jobs, here in the United States. While we all like to complain about those jobs moving to China, but the reality is that more of those jobs have been lost to automation, than have been lost to China.
Robotics is taking over more and more manufacturing jobs. From the business management point of view, it's a logical move to make. While manufacturing robots are expensive to buy, the lifetime cost of them, compared to a line worker is considerably lower. Basically, the entire cost is recouped in three to five years. For every year the robot works after that, it's providing free labor.
With the constant push to lower the price of manufactured goods at retail, reducing labor is important to businesses. So as long as you and I want to be able to buy inexpensive goods, we can expect more and more manufacturing jobs to be lost to robots.
Minimal Wage Job Loss
Then there's the issue of the Democrat push for a $15 per hour minimum wage. Their argument is that minimum wage isn't a "living wage," meaning that you can live off of it. The Republican counter is that minimum wage jobs are not intended to be a career, but rather entry-level jobs for high school and college students.
Without getting into a discussion about who is right, let's look at the results. The vast majority of minimum wage jobs are either in food service and retail. The food service industry runs on a very minimal profit margin, depending on volume to make a descent profit. It employs a lot of low-skill workers, taking orders, waiting tables, flipping burgers and doing other such jobs that require little training. These jobs are a large part of what they're claiming should be paid $15 per hour.
We've already seen the results of that push. In cities where a $15 per hour minimum wage has been implemented, restaurants are either closing, reducing staff (which reduces service) or replacing workers with automation. McDonalds currently has the technology developed to build fully-automated restaurants, eliminating all but one worker to keep an eye on the equipment.
If this becomes the trend, we can expect to see the unemployment rate rise incredibly fast. Once again, just like the manufacturing jobs, installing automation saves money, helping companies to remain competitive. Why wouldn't they make that transition?
I haven't heard of many similar automation projects in the works for retail sales, but I assure you, people are working on them. But even without them, we've been seeing a gradual reduction of retail sales clerks in stores anyway. You can't get waited on in a store today, like you could 40 years ago.
Besides, retail has largely become self-serve anyway. Other than high-end stores, there is little that sales personnel do in most stores. With self-checkout becoming more and more common, the need for a sales staff is diminishing constantly.
Then there's inventory control, an important part of retail. The computer has greatly diminished the labor required for inventory control, as each sale is traced and the inventory adjusted automatically. Inventory is reordered automatically, reducing the human element to counting inventory and making adjustments. But that too will be going by the wayside.
There is now a robot that can count the inventory on grocery store shelves, eliminating the need for manual counting of inventory in supermarkets. If it can be done in that environment, where the products are extremely varied, it won't be long before it moves into other areas of retail.
The next big push in automation taking jobs is in the area of driverless vehicles, or self-driving vehicles. Mercedes-Benz already has an autonomous semi truck on the road, with plans to put it on the market in 2025. They aren't the only manufacturer working on that either. It seems that every major auto manufacturer is working on self-driving vehicles. The day of the professional driver is limited.
Uber, the German-based transit company, employs 160,000 part-time employees in the USA and countless more worldwide. They have already issued a purchase order for their first 100,000 self-driving vehicles, planning on eventually replacing all of their drivers with autonomous vehicles.
Currently, models of these self-driving cars are in testing on American roads. There are 10 of them being used in Arizona, as a first-time test of the systems necessary to market such a vehicle. So it won't be long before these self-driving cars become a reality.
There are something like 50,000 full-time over-the-road truck drivers here in the United States, not counting delivery drivers, such as mail carriers, UPS drivers and truck drivers who do local delivery from warehouses to stores. On top of that, there are tens of thousands more taxi drivers. All of these jobs are currently at risk, soon to be replaced by automation.
Where Is This Taking Us?
The point of all this is that these Silicon Valley techies have good reason to fear a breakdown of society. It is clear that unemployment is going to become one of the biggest problems we face in the future. When that happens, who knows what people will do.
Unemployment peaked out at 25% during the Great Depression, yet there are people talking about 50% unemployment hitting the US in the next 20 years or less. Considering today's entitlement mentality and the increase in violence we've seen from left-leaning groups like Black Lives Matter, chances are that we are heading into a time of severe social disorder, manifesting through an increased crime rate.
Why is this so? Because desperate people do desperate things. When they can't feed their families, you can be sure that some will turn to crime; not because they want to, but because they feel forced into it.
There is no way that only having half of the population working is sustainable. If anything, that high an unemployment rate will mean lower wages for those who are working. That's just an application of the law of supply and demand. With so many people out of work and willing to take a job, employers won't pay as much, plain and simple.
Of course, the left will blame the "evil corporations" for this, but that won't be entirely true. While they will not be motivated to pay higher wages, ultimately what employers pay is dictated by society, not by the boardroom. So the blame will actually fall back on all of us.
So while wages are lowering, the government will increase taxes, trying to come up with the necessary funds to pay for public assistance for all those people who are out of work. Eventually, the whole system will have to collapse.
I can't be sure about it, but I think this is the scenario that is scaring those techno-entrepreneurs. They can see the writing on the wall, and they want to be ready. So they are taking at least some of the profits they are making and using it to ensure that their families will be safe.
So, What Are the Rich Doing Differently?
When you look at the rich and their survival plans, there’s one thing that stands out; they’re all planning on getting out of Dodge when things go south. Apparently none of them have any plans at all to stay home, bugging in. In fact, I’d be surprised to find that any of them have a food stockpile in their home.
Granted, if you read a lot of survival websites, bugging out is a popular option, especially if you can afford a nice survival retreat somewhere. Most of us can’t afford that, but these people can. So they are putting their money where their mouth is and creating survival retreats for their families. Not just any survival retreats either, but survival retreats that reflect the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to.
I really can’t blame them for that, even though I have doubts that things will go as well for them as they are expecting. A nice luxury getaway, stocked with plenty of food and with a big enough generator to power the whole place sounds great. But I wonder if any of them have thought about what they’re going to do when they run out of gas for their generators.
Apparently most of these people expect to be able to bug out before the crisis really hits. In many cases, their survival retreats are far from their homes, even on the other side of the world. They must believe that their information sources are good enough that they’ll be able to catch a plane to wherever they are going, getting there before it is impossible to travel. That would require some really good information or a level of paranoia which pushes them to jump on a plane every time someone says “Boo!”
Defenses are heavy for those whose survival retreat is in the United States, with good arms and armament. Most have concrete fighting positions to use, with fully-automatic firearms. They even have full-time security personnel to help with their defenses. Some of these locations are underground, providing excellent protection from mobs; but how long can they stay underground?
As much as I’d love to have a survival retreat off in the woods somewhere, I’m not sure that these people are going about it the right way. Most are depending on the advice of consultants, rather than learning about survival themselves. But those consultants are also selling them the survival retreats that they are going to be using. So I have to ask the question, are they advising based on what’s best for these rich survivalists or what’s best for the consultant’s pocketbook?
Where Are They Planning on Going?
The really interesting thing about the survival retreats that these people are building and buying is that they are not close to their homes. Personally, I think that a survival retreat shouldn’t be more than a tank of gas away. That way, you stand a pretty good chance of making it, even if you have to abandon your vehicle and walk.
But the rich aren’t thinking that way. You can’t exactly drive to New Zeeland, a favorite survival destination of the rich. While I can’t find anything that explains how New Zeeland has become a favorite place to bug out too, there are real estate agents who are specializing in this market segment, selling upscale homes to Americans who want to use them for bugging out. There are even developers who are creating communities just for this market.
It has reached the point where “New Zeeland” has become a code word in Silicon Valley, almost like a secret handshake between these rich survivalists. Talking about taking a trip to New Zeeland or buying a “vacation home” there is tantamount to admitting that you have a bug out plan in place, in which you’re going to fly your family to that country.
But the beautiful country of New Zeeland, home of Hobbitstown, isn’t the only location that the rich are looking too, even if it is the farthest away. Many more are setting themselves up to survive here at home, in their own home away from home.
A number of companies are now remodeling abandoned missile silos that they bought as surplus from the government, turning them into upscale survival condos. These condos not only provide remote bug out locations, well stocked with food and other necessities, but every luxury imaginable, including recreational facilities. While they might qualify as “roughing it” to someone who is used to living in a multi-million dollar home, they are far more luxurious than anything you or I will ever see.
The people who are catering to this market seem to be thinking things through rather well, providing indoor shooting ranges, generators, hydroponic food farms, massive water tanks and redundant air filtration as part of the package. Standard supplies include five years worth of food, per person. Along with the recreational facilities provided, residents should be comfortable, even if they are a bit more cramped than they are accustomed to. But what happens when the five years worth of food runs out?
As with any survival plan, this one has limitations. Those who are spending $1.5 million or more on one of these condos don’t see those limitations though. To them, this is packaged security, in a price that is within their grasp. Like many other things where the rich are concerned, it’s all about buying what they need.
But there are those who want something more than these “canned answers” to their survival need. Once again, the rich are handling this different than you and I, investing their money in more unique survival retreats, such as buying private islands and building a retreat there. Granted, building a survival retreat is difficult and expensive, but for some of these people, money is no object.
The big advantage of an island retreat is that it is not easily accessible. With the right work to make it hard to land on the island’s shores, it might even be relatively easy to defend. Proper OPSEC would help with that. If properly executed, people might not even realize that the island is occupied.
But What’s the Bottom Line?
When push comes to shove, the answers these wealthy semi-survivalists are looking to are all going to end up being failures. Ultimately, the problem boils down to these people looking to their money to make them safe, in situations where their money can’t make them safe. If society breaks down to the point that they are expecting, their very wealth and security will make them targets.
In the book World War Z, one of the many things that Max Brooks depicts is an enclave of the super-rich, enjoying their safety while the zombies are raging across the land. This particular group is so proud of their accomplishment, saving themselves from the zombies in an impenetrable compound, that they broadcast their good life for all to see. But their compound is never tested against the zombies they were hiding from, as thousands of ordinary people stormed it, blowing the gates and clamoring inside, seeking safety.
Why did the rich fail in that novel? Because they thought their money was the answer. Others, who weren’t so unlucky to die in that disaster, found themselves relegated to manual labor, because the skills they had were worthless in fighting the war and rebuilding the world.
While that is mere fiction, there’s an element of truth here. That is, depending on the security that money can buy is a recipe for disaster. Whether we’re talking about the rich buying homes and ranches in New Zeeland to escape some pending breakdown of American society or a typical middle-class family who scrimps and saves to bury a bunker in the back yard, things won’t guarantee our survival.
Ultimately, it is the skills that we have and the knowledge that we possess, which will make it possible for you and I to survive. Can a good survival retreat help? Yes it can. But only when that retreat is built as part of a well thought out survival strategy.
I don’t care if you have one year’s worth of food on the shelves, five years worth or ten years worth, eventually your food will run out. If the crisis doesn’t run out before your food does, you’ll end up starving to death. All that food will have done for you is to buy you a few more years. But, and again I say but, if you have that stockpile of food and develop the means to grow more, you will most likely survive. You might be the only ones that do; but you’ll do it.Survival isn’t a game and it isn’t a hobby for the ultra-rich, it’s a way of life. Maybe if they bothered to learn that, those expensive survival retreats would do them some good.