For many, the singular strategy for dealing with such dangers is to pray for the government to bail us out. But no matter if our elected officials prefer to school us with passages from Milton Friedman or from Thomas Piketty, the hard truth is that no state can provide a robust safety net for all of life's likely contingencies; in most places, government-run social programs are severely deficient in funding, in efficiency, and in scope. Large-scale disasters pit us against even worse odds; from New Orleans in 2005 to Fukushima in 2011, there are countless stories of people left behind due to political dysfunction, poorly allocated resources, or lost paperwork.
One measure of survivalism’s spread is that some people are starting to speak out against it. Max Levchin, a founder of PayPal and of Affirm, a lending startup, told me, “It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike—the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared.”

Effective preparedness can be simple, but it has to be rooted in an honest and systematic review of the risks you are likely to face. Plenty of excited newcomers begin by shopping for ballistic vests and night vision goggles; they would be better served by grabbing a fire extinguisher, some bottled water, and then putting the rest of their money in a rainy-day fund.

Sure, the lightbulb needs changing and that office chair is really close, but it would take you only 15 seconds more to bring a more sturdy stool from another room, so don't take chances if you don't have to. Similarly, having someone hold a wobbly ladder for you or securing it with some rope can be a minor hurdle - but it's gonna be much less of a hurdle than dealing with a compound fracture or a dent in your skull.
All right. Financial systems are messy. Fiat money and fractional-reserve banking, although wildly successful, can fail in interesting and horrific ways. Foreign trade, neglected here but absolutely vital for most European countries, adds even more variables to the mix. So, let's talk about what can be done to protect your rainy-day funds against some of the most likely or most talked-about risks.
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For an hour and 50 minutes, we talk a lot about liberty. The world according to Fletch hinges on the rhetorical question, “Is this going to give me more liberty, or less liberty?” He also assures me that his survivalist group isn’t just white guys running around in the woods with guns. “In my sphere of influence, there are Asians, there are blacks, Native Americans; a person’s race has absolutely nothing to do with anything,” Fletch says.
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