Friday, January 16, 2009

While I'm sitting here with chattering teeth waiting to have my furnace fixed . . .

I noticed this interesting link at Rawles' survival blog:

The New Paranoia: Hedge-Funders Are Bullish on Gold, Guns, and Inflatable Lifeboats

By Timothy Sohn

Published Jan 11, 2009

During the final months of 2008, as the financial markets imploded, talk on trading desks turned to food and water stockpiles, generators, guns, and high-speed inflatable boats. “The system really was about six hours from failing,” says Gene Lange, a manager at a midtown hedge fund, referring to the week in September when Lehman went bust and AIG had to be bailed out. “When you think about how close we were to the precipice, I don’t think it necessarily makes a guy crazy to prepare for the potential worst-case scenario.”

Preparations, in Lange’s case, include a storeroom in his basement in New Jersey stacked high with enough food, water, diapers, and other necessities to last his family six months; a biometric safe to hold his guns; and a 1985 ex-military Chevy K5 Blazer that runs on diesel and is currently being retrofitted for off-road travel. He has also entertained the idea of putting an inflatable speedboat in a storage unit on the West Side, so he could get off the island quickly, and is currently considering purchasing a remote farm where he could hunker down. “If there’s a financial-system breakdown, it could take a year to reset the system, and in that time, what’s going to happen?” asks Lange. If New York turns into a scene out of I Am Legend, he wants to be ready.

He’s not the only one. In his book Wealth, War, published last year, former Morgan Stanley chief global strategist Barton Biggs advised people to prepare for the possibility of a total breakdown of civil society. A senior analyst whose reports are read at hedge funds all over the city wrote just before Christmas that some of his clients are “so bearish they’ve purchased firearms and safes and are stocking their pantries with soups and canned foods.” This fear is very much reflected in the market—prices of corporate bonds have been so beaten down at various points that they suggest a higher default rate than during the Great Depression. Meanwhile, while the overall gold market has fluctuated, the premium for quarter-ounce gold coins—meaning the difference between the price for gold you can hold in your hand and that for “paper gold,” such as exchange-traded funds—rose to an all-time high of 20 percent. “Gold is transportable, it’s 100 percent liquid, and it’s perfectly divisible in the context of ounces, bars, or coins,” says the head of a California research firm who keeps a supply of it, along with food, water, and guns, on hand. “And most important, there’s no counterparty”—i.e., it’s an investment beholden to no one, and perhaps one of the few assets that will retain value if the financial system collapses.

While it may look like these Wall Streeters are betting on such a collapse, their embrace of survivalism is an outgrowth of their professional habits of mind: Having observed the economy’s shaky high-wire act from their ringside seats, they are trying to manage their risk and “hedge” against a potential fall. “It’s like insurance,” says an investor who has stockpiled MREs and a hand-cranked radio. “And by the time you need it, it’s way too late.” Leave it for others to weep for the collapse of the social order. These guys would prefer to be in a high-speed boat or ex-military vehicle, heading off toward their fully provisioned compounds in pursuit of the ultimate goal: to win the chaos.


jon said...

i don't see anything about cleaning those guns, or reloading ammo.

i don't see anything about navigating those expensive vehicles.

i don't see anything about growing food.

i see guys with cool toys who are preparing for a cartoon version of the disaster they're worried about.

and, they're going to be sitting on a huge beacon which says "come rob and kill my entire family." oh, i mean, a huge pile of gold.

my mistake.

Vanderboegh said...

A new friend I met in Indiana, a fighting parson sort of fellow with a penchant for M14 pattern rifles, dubs such newbies "Mobile Replenishment Pods."

Qi Ji Guang said...

This is a very interesting topic.
Re: Vanderboegh, being a "mobile replenishment Pod" is EXACTLY the VERY thing you want to avoid if you plan on seeing the next sunrise every day. Nothing slows down an irregular force more than a train-car full of supplies following you. It is better off if there is a "underground railroad" of sorts, very similar to the same one that African Americans used to gain their freedom long ago. Supply stations, in other words, along the route of operations.

Having no supply stations and relying on overwhelming manpower, once again, another fatal mistake that slowed down the Taiping Heavenly Army in their vain attempts to capture Beijing in 1853.
The Taiping sent out perhaps the largest expedition force in the 19th century, perhaps right after the size of Napoleon's Russian expedition. Their goal was to capture Beijing, the heart of Qing imperial power.

Led by two kings, the expeditionary force crushed through the countryside like an unstoppable earth-moving machine, yet all machines need FUEL, and that is where the monster Taiping jauggernaut broke down. Following the Taiping armies were even larger supply convoys, train after train of peasants pulling large oxen-driven wagons. These supply trains were irresistible targets for fast moving Mongol cavalry led by Lord Senggolinqin, The Qing Dynasty's most vaunted commander.

By the time the Taiping engine of conquest grinded it's way to Zhijiazhuang, 75 miles from Beijing, their supply lines had been fractured, torn apart by vicious cavalry attacks, blown to pieces and burned away by relentless artillery fire. During the following battle with 8 banner armies of the Qing Dynasty, the remnants of the Taiping expeditionary force fought well, but they ran out of ammunition quickly. Unable to retreat, surrounded by cavalry and artillery, unable to advance and inflict a desisive frontal attack, the Taipings were slaughtered, along with the two kings that commanded the force.

Melancton Smith said...

Yep, someone asked for my opinion once as to whether having gold or silver was better if the SHTF. I replied, "lead".

Anonymous said...

Mike said "A new friend I met in Indiana, a fighting parson sort of fellow with a penchant for M14 pattern rifles, dubs such newbies "Mobile Replenishment Pods."

I sure hope your pal does not mean that such newbies are easy pickings for his own replenishment. If so, that's not a funny, or a responsible thing to say.

Nothing like survivalism snobbery and macho statements along the lines of "glad to know you are stocking up on food - now I know were to go, yuck yuck."

People who talk like that deserve to be treated like two legged feral dogs.

GunGeek said...

So, just how much gold and how many guns are you going to carry in your inflatable lifeboat?