Thursday, May 28, 2015


In the prepper-sphere there exists a balancing act between skills and stuff. Some preppers rely on skills more than stuff, and if that works for them, that's fine. For those that prefer to collect stuff, there can be issues with ownership. Stated briefly:
  • You can only own that which you can protect.
  • You can only protect that which you can control.
  • You can only control that which you can hold.
  • You can only hold that which exists.
In more detail, with a few examples:

What can you protect?
If something is too big for you to be able to see in its entirety, I doubt you can protect it. Owning a 1000 acre retreat in the mountains sounds great, but unless you have a big enough tribe to patrol it, you can't protect it. Squatters could set up in a corner and you may not find them until after they've taken over part of “your” land. In a TEOTWAWKI/WROL situation, you will either have to get used to your new neighbors or figure out how to remove them.

Governments, to a large extent, are created to help us protect our property and rights. They rarely do a good job of it, but the legal system and other functions of government are there, in part, to mediate disputes over ownership. This is where having government issued ID and titles for real property come in handy: If you can prove that something is yours in a court of law, that's a form of protecting it.

What can you control?
A classic version of the problem with control is the “tragedy of the commons”. Follow the link for a complete description, but a simple real-world example is a river that flows through or past your property: You may own the land right up to the water, but there are other people up- and down-stream of you whose claim to the water is as valid as yours. With no method of controlling what is done with the water in the river, human nature will eventually cause someone to abuse it (pollution, over-fishing, drawing too much water, etc.). Without some form of control, greed will cause people to overuse common resources since they will share the damages but not the benefits of that overuse.

Caches are a good example of this: by artfully hiding your supplies, you are protecting them from confiscation and other forms of theft. The downside of a cache is that it is not normally close to where you live, so there is a risk of it being discovered and cleaned out. Since it is out of your sight, you can't control it and run a risk of losing it.

What can you hold?
You can hold your breath, but that's about the only volume of air that you can actually own. The atmosphere is another example of the “commons” that we all share.

Say you're out hunting. That deer/rabbit/moose/whatever doesn't belong to you until you've killed it and have your hands on it. It doesn't matter if you're on your own land or public land, wildlife has no owner until it's dead and on its way to the table. On the other hand, livestock is an example of animals that you can hold and control.

Physical possession of a thing is not always ownership, but it comes close. “Owning” a house is pretty much an oxymoron when you consider that even if the mortgage is paid off, there are still payments in the form of taxes that you have to make or someone will come and take it away from you.

Holding on to possessions while bugging out will require some decisions concerning what to take and what to leave. It would be best to make those decisions before an actual emergency, just to make your life a bit easier in a stressful time.

What exists?
This is a problem I have noticed with financial preps: buying gold/silver may be a good idea, since it holds its value, but unless you have physical control of it, it may not exist. A lot of gold dealers are selling “paper gold”, which is actually a form of futures trading. The gold isn't sitting in a vault anywhere; they are just selling the rights to trade a certain quantity of gold. Be careful what you invest in; a piece of paper that says you have X amount of gold in a vault somewhere is worth just as much as a blank piece of paper in an emergency.

Ideas and other intangibles are also hard to claim ownership of. You can own a patent or copyright (methods of controlling and protecting created by governments), but the ideas themselves are only yours until you share them.

Look around yourself and see what you actually own. Think about how you have prepared to protect, control, and hold on to the things that are real. Stuff is important, too.

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