Prepping for a Failure of Civility

Prepping for Hyperinflation” mentioned that some people are vague as to exactly what scenario they are preparing for. Hyperinflation is likely but easy to survive. Local social collapse is less likely but more challenging. Global crash of Western civilization is very unlikely and probably not survivable. Previously we discussed the first scenario. Here we look at the second: How to survive where law and order have collapsed.

The topic has two major sections: The Problem: The collapse of the dollar, and The Solution: A neighborhood protection plan.

The Problem: The U.S. Dollar Will Collapse, Triggering Social Disorder

It Will Happen When the Federal Government Can No Longer Pay Interest on Its Debt

In 2012, economist John Makin enhanced a rule named after economist John B. Taylor into an easy-to-grasp formula measuring the financial stability of the U.S. federal government. It compares annual percent GDP growth (R), plus annual percent Inflation (i), minus plus annual percent cost of borrowing (B), on the one hand, to annual deficit (D) as percent of GDP, on the other. As long as R+i-B exceeds D, then federal spending is stable. Deficits may rise and the national debt may grow without limit, but the federal government will never default. In contrast, if R+i-B falls to less than D, then the collapse of the dollar is inevitable.

To see this, forget inflation for now (i=0). Imagine that each year you get a five percent raise (R) and pay four percent of your income (B) to credit card interest charges (R+i-B=1). If each year you spend one percent more than you earned, your credit card debt will grow forever, but you will never default. Each five percent annual raise will forever cover your four percent interest payments plus your one percent overspending. That is the goal of the U.S. Federal Reserve: infinitely growing national debt but never default.

Now imagine that your yearly raise is only four percent (R+i-B=0) but you still spend one percent more than you make. You would be unable to pay the four percent interest on your credit card. You would default on the very next payment. Even if the card company forgave a month’s interest, you would default on the payment after that. This is the situation that the Federal Reserve actually faces. Without inflation, the federal government would default tomorrow.

Now put inflation back into the picture. A one percent annual inflation rate (i=1) would solve the second scenario above. This is because the buying power of the national debt shrinks in step with inflation. Even if GDP never grew (R=0) and borrowing cost remained unchanged (B=4), the equation would come out to R+i-B =1, so the government could spend 1 percent more than it takes in forever–the yearly deficit would always be covered by inflation. [For a detailed explanation, see James Rickards, The Death of Money (Penguin/Portfolio, 2014) p. 178.]

How much inflation must the Federal Reserve create in order to keep the government solvent? Turn the equation around. The minimum necessary inflation (i) equals: annual deficit as percent of GDP (D), plus borrowing cost (B), minus annual percent GDP growth (R), or i = D+B-R. The actual numbers for the U.S. federal government are:

D=3.8% — (annual deficit of $600 billion over GDP of $15,700 billion).

B=2.3% — ($415 billion interest on federal debt over $17,800 billion federal debt.

R=0% — (no current annual GDP growth).

So the minimum required inflation needed in order to keep the federal government from defaulting is D+B-R = 6.1%.

That is why the Fed continues money-printing (nowadays funneling it through the EU central bank in Belgium instead of via open “QE”). The Federal Reserve is in desperate struggle. They must somehow push inflation up to about six percent in order to keep the government afloat. They are failing. Actual inflation is less than half of that. The machinery is breaking apart. The plunge steepens. Current federal regulations strangle GDP growth (reducing R). The day that buyers of federal bonds bid up interest rates to normal (raising B), the structure will collapse. The federal government will either default on its debts or create hyperinflation. Either way, the dollar will become essentially worthless.

Social Disorder Triggered by Two U.S.-Unique Factors

Normally, the collapse of a nation’s currency has little impact on daily life. In hyperinflation-plagued 1970s Brazil, employers adjusted each paycheck to keep pace with the consumer price index (CPI). Banks paid interest plus CPI adjustment on monthly balance. Car and appliance salesmen quoted prices, but if you took more than a day to decide, the price would be adjusted upwards. The amount due on invoices that you tendered depended on how many days the client took to pay. Modern society is resilient. People adapt, improvise. Within a year, Brazilians learned to use currency that continued to lose half of its value every month. Although the currency had collapsed, society did not. Similarly, although hyperinflating 1921 Germany, 1989 Argentina, and 2000 Zimbabwe had riots and demonstrations, civil society did not collapse into dog-eat-dog chaos.

The coming dollar crash may not fit that pattern. Armed mobs bent on looting and murder may attack neighborhoods as happened in 1991 Mogadishu, 1993 Sarajevo, or 2005 New Orleans. Two aggravating factors may push the crisis to civil disorder. The first is that the United States has a large population that survives only on federal payments so one-third of U.S. residents may be forced Into looting. The second factor is that, in contrast to the three chaos examples just mentioned (1991 Mogadishu, 1993 Sarajevo, 2005 New Orleans), help cannot come from outside.

One-Third of U.S. Residents May be Forced Into Looting

To estimate how many U.S. residents need federal money to survive, count those who receive “means-tested” benefits—how many get benefits specifically because a federal agency has determined it to be necessary. This excludes recipients of social security, medicare, pensions, and the like. According to the Census Bureau in 2011, this comes to 109 million people (35.4 percent of the population). [See “HHS Report: Percentage of Americans on Welfare Hits Recorded High“.] Here is another way of estimating how many lives will be threatened by a dollar collapse: According to the June 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, “20 percent of American families do not have a single person that is working.”

Assume that all 4.4 million federal employees (2.8 full-time civilians plus 1.4 active-duty military) find other ways to survive. A dollar crash will still leave 20-35 percent of U.S. residents facing starvation. Similar collapses (1991 Mogadishu, 1993 Sarajevo, 2005 New Orleans) show that desperate mobs will do whatever it takes to feed their children. In cities, the fraction of looters will be higher than 20-35 percent. In exurbs and rural areas, it will be less.

Help Cannot Come From Outside

The longer a crisis lasts, the more dangerous it becomes. A one-hour loss of electricty is an inconvenience. After a day, refrigerated food is at risk, and services dependent on electric pumps (water, sewage, gasoline, diesel) stop. After a week, vehicles and generators run out of fuel, supermarkets and hospitals exhaust inventories, and waterborne diseases spread. After a month without food resupply, starvation is unavoidable.

The point is not that a currency collapse always triggers power failure or loss of vital services. It is simply that every crisis worsens with time. And most collapses are shortened by outsiders bringing humanitarian aid. Sarajevo would have been worse without religious organizations who provided to refugees sanctuary, food, and in one case, escape. Mogadishu received supplies of food and medicines from international organizations. In the Katrina chaos, National Guard units distributed MREs and Coast Guard helicopters rescued people from rooftops. But no outsiders can help if the entire nation suffers mob disorder. The U.S. dollar has been the world’s reserve currency for over 40 years. Its collapse will drag the British Pound, the Euro, the Canadian dollar, the Mexican Peso, and the Yen to destruction as well. Each U.S. neighborhood will be on its own.

The Solution: A Neighborhood Protection Plan as Detailed in A Failure of Civility

The essential handbook for surviving a social collapse is A Failure of Civility by Mike Garand and Jack Lawson (AFOC LLC, 2012). The authors have a combined 80 years’ experience as spec-ops combat veterans in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa, and have served with U.S., Israeli, and British SAS counterinsurgency forces. Most importantly, they have studied the Sarajevo siege in depth personally and from the experiences of survivors. Their book reads as if the authors just parachuted into your backyard as spec-ops soldiers to help you form a cooperative protection of your neighborhood.

A Failure of Civility gives step-by-step instructions for forming a realistic but effective Neighborhood Protection Plan. The most important chapters are:

  • Why you need Neighborhood Cooperation
  • The Psychology and Reality of Desperation
  • How to Organize your Neighborhood Protection Plan
  • Area Tactical Protection for a Low Rise Residential Neighborhood
  • Area Tactical Protection for a High Rise Residential Building
  • Alternative Weapons and Improvised Security Methods
  • Offensive Tactics you may need for your Neighborhood Protection Plan
  • Firearms, Safety, Basics of Marksmanship and Surviving a Gun Battle
  • Planned or Emergency NPP Relocation, Convoys and Security in Motion
  • Medical Aid, Hygiene and Items needed for a successful NPP
  • Check Lists, Forms and Supplemental Information

I stress this as strongly as I can: If you have any interest in surviving and protecting your loved ones during a social collapse, get a copy of this handbook. Keep it handy. When SHTF, you will refer back to it again and again as the crisis unfolds. The Kindle version costs under $10.

Two Shocking Lessons on What Not to Do

With the benefit of hindsight and the passage of time, several excellent sources have become available on three recent social collapses: 1991 Mogadishu, 1993 Sarajevo, and 2005 New Orleans. Among these are Jed Horne, Breach of Faith (Random House 2006), Hutchinson and Masson, The Great New Orleans Gun Grab (Louisiana Publishing, 2007), and a wealth of website information gotten by googling “mogadishu 1991” and “siege of sarajevo”, especially the first-hand accounts by Selco at

When you study the details of how real-life social collapses unfold, two shocking lessons are inescapable. Witnesses who lived through the chaos could not believe their own experiences at first. But they eventually came to accept two vital facts: bunker preppers die first and the government is not your friend.

Bunker Preppers Die First

Wherever you go, you will find a handful of people who prepare for disaster. Most stockpile food and water, supplies and ammunition. Some have generators and fuel. A few construct defensive sites or bunkers. Many focus on the survival of their immediate families—their loved ones and themselves. They do not try to recruit neighbors into an overall disaster plan. Garand and Lawson call them, “people with a bunker mentality.” They are the first ones to be robbed and murdered by mobs during a social collapse. You might think, “Stocking up my house with supplies might not help, but it cannot hurt.” Yes, it can hurt. Here is why.

The reason is simple. Death comes in three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Two weeks into a collapse, when stores can no longer sell food, children will begin to starve. Parents will do anything for their loved ones. Anything.

Mobs will form automatically, without planning. They are neither stupid nor random. They are intelligent people who want their kids to survive. They will attack first those houses where they think food, water, supplies can be found. It does no good to have kept your stockpile secret from your neighbors (realistically impossible). Rumor alone will suffice to attract the mob. Even if you could keep it secret, Sarajevo teaches us that the very sight of two well-fed children in a starving neighborhood will guarantee their murder and that of their parents in a desperate search for food.

No nuclear family (man and woman plus children), no matter how well armed, can stop a mob. In Sarajevo, looting mobs ranged in size from 15 to 50 individuals. Of those, typically one in four carried guns. Home defenders were always outgunned, so every firefight ended the same way. True, attackers also would often be killed. But after killing the defenders, the mob would move on to the next target, its ranks swelled even larger by newcomers attracted by the victory.

Again, the tested-and-proven answer is explained in A Failure of Civility. A Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP) manned by a large fraction of the able-bodied adults of a neighborhood actually does work. The sight of an organized team who are obviously practiced in weapons and tactics will deter even the most desperate mob. Worst case, with tactical preparation (again, explained step-by-step in the book), an undeterred mob can be cut down or driven off without loss to the defenders.

In short, recruit your neighbors; do not try to prepare alone.

The Government is Not Your Friend

Civilization needs occassional violence because human predators will always exist. Credible threat of righteous violence is the only thing that deters evil. A hallmark of Western civilization is that citizens delegate a monopoly on use of violence to the government. Even hoplophobes who wish that the entire planet were a gun-free zone make exception for police officers. Citizens depend on the authorities to protect them from danger. Oddly enough, civilized folk expect to be protected from violence by uniformed men with guns who are willing use violence. Their expectation is betrayed when law and order itself collapses.

In each of the three recent losses of civility (Mogadishu, Sarajevo, Katrina) government men with guns (law enforcement officers, army units, federal marshalls, national guard units, state militias) attacked the public. Mobs are a small problem compared to a government gone crazy. For some citizens, the civic duty to obey authority was so strong that they went to their deaths without a struggle, in denial to the end. Three phenomena were common to each social collapse. In each case, the government: (1) shot those trying to escape, (2) looted, and (3) disarmed the law-abiding but ignored guns in mob hands.

The government shot those trying to escape

Between 1992 and 1995, 11,541 unarmed men, women, and children were killed by government forces in Sarajevo. The two most common causes of death were: artillery which fired on residential areas for months on end, and snipers who killed anyone (many children) who tried to cross streets in the daytime. The only successful mass escape from Sarajevo comprised 200 people in buses organized by a Jewish charity.

On September 4, 2005, New Orleans police opened fire with assault rifles and a shotgun on an unarmed family, the Bartholomews, who had been walking to a grocery store and were then sheltering behind a concrete barrier. The police killed two and wounded four. Two other unarmed citizens were able to escape the massacre.

The government looted

“[Police] moved the civilians out of the store and then went on a looting frenzy. As the Wal-Mart shelves, clothes racks, and gun and jewelry cases were stripped bare, officers with the NOPD’s third district, flooded out of their usual haunts in the city’s Gentilly district, lighted upon costlier goods: Cadillacs and Chevrolets. No matter that the third district’s entire motor pool was high and dry in a downtown garage, the officers commandeered two hundred vehicles, some of which were privatized by officers with no greater act of public service in mind than getting their own tender behinds to Baton Rouge or Texas. Criminal probes would end some careers, but the stolen Cadillac Escalades would become emblems of a big-city police department’s breakdown in command, as severe as any in memory. While firefighters and cops looted the Uptown Wal-Mart at a stroll, EMTs across town cruised the aisles of the flooded Wal-Mart at Read Boulevard by boat.” [See Horne, Breach of Faith, p. 123.]

The government disarmed the law-abiding but ignored guns in mob hands

In Sarajevo, all civilian gun ownership was illegal except for hunting weapons, which had to be registered with local police. Law-abiding citizens were ordered to turn in their hunting weapons in the days before the collapse.

In Louisiana, “the police even stopped private citizens with their vehicles packed, trying to leave the city weeks after the storm. Though they were obviously trying to evacuate, the police would pull their vehicles over, ask the passengers if any guns were in the vehicle, and make them unload their belongings on the street until the firearms were found. The cops would then confiscate the guns, frequently refusing to identify themselves or allow the citizens to copy down the serial numbers. In depositions given to NRA and SAF attorneys, some citizens described their firearms being broken and damaged before their eyes by smashing the guns into the pavement.” [See Hutchinson and Masson, The Great New Orleans Gun Grab, “Epilogue: The Second Battle of New Orleans”.] When citizens (termed “hold-outs”) refused to hand over their guns, police in Louisiana sometimes called in national guard units to enforce state authority with overwhelming lethal force.

Some try to explain government misbehavior during the Katrina crisis as unique to New Orleans. But this ignores two facts. First, similar phenomena (shooting escapees, looting, disarming the law-abiding) happen around the globe during loss of civility. Second, among law enforcement agencies that participated in those misbehaviors during Katrina were: state police from Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, national guard units from Oklahoma and Arkansas, federal marshals, ATFE agents, and police officers from as far away as New York City.

Government misbehavior will happen again in future social collapses. After Katrina, 20 states and the federal government passed laws forbidding police from confiscating legal guns from law-abiding citizens. NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley responded publicly to this news with contempt. He vowed to order his officers to conduct even harsher gun confiscations in the next emergency, laws or no laws. [See Hutchinson and Masson, last page.] Similarly, current Florida law makes it a felony for a concealed carry licensee to be armed during a declared emergency. In April 2014, a bill was proposed making it legal for Florida residents with concealed-carry licenses to continue to carry concealed in emergencies. The bill was ridiculed in the state senate. It was labeled “The Zombie Apocalypse Bill” and laughed out of the legislature. License or no license, anyone armed in a Florida emergency today commits a felony.

A Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP) is Still the Answer

How can you defend against a government gone berserk? It is one thing to drive off a looting mob. It is quite another to deter a national guard infantry squad backed by a vehicle-mounted ma deuce. We find the answer in New Orleans.

As it turns out, heavily armed civilians in New Orleans were ignored or given a wide berth by the police if they were: (1) organized, (2) dressed uniformly (usually 5.11 trousers and vests), (3) were obviously well-trained in weapons discipline, and (4) suggested to police the face-saving excuse that they were merely private guards hired to protect private neighborhoods.

Blackwater (now known as “Academi”) contractors hired by local businesses drove and walked openly through New Orleans carrying rifles and wearing body armor. Blackwater’s people were never stopped despite the police superintendent’s vow to confiscate every non-police gun. Similarly, residents of the gated neighborhood “Audubon Place” hired a squad of contractors from Instinctive Shooting International (ISI, a firm using Israeli trainers and methods) to defend their homes for 60 days. Although patrolling NOPD officers often greeted ISI sentries in passing, the perimeter never had an incursion from NOPD or anyone else. If Blackwater and ISI could enjoy immunity from government misbehavior, so can you. A neighborhood protection plan (NPP) as laid out by Garand and Lawson is the answer

The relationship between your NPP and local police is subtle. On the one hand, you cannot keep the NPP a secret. Even in the midst of a collapse, those neighbors who believe that self-defense is evil will report you to the authorities as a scary gang. Better to ensure that your local police are aware of your organization from the start.

On the other hand, as explained in chapter 5 of A Failure of Civility, the police will oppose “any citizen group organizing to use threat, force or violence to protect themselves, regardless of the fact that their own police department cannot protect its citizens…. Don’t expect your police department’s cooperation… expect their objection to your neighborhood protection plan.”

Nevertheless, police approval of your NPP is not necessary. As Katrina made clear, police who are shooting escapees, looting, or seizing guns will take the path of least resistance. Why would anyone spend great effort and risk for thin result by going after a well-armed, well-trained, organization when they can get more result with less effort and no risk by going after weaker targets? Again, the key is to give police the face-saving excuse that you are merely private guards protecting a private neighborhood.


A U.S. dollar collapse may cause social disorder. The dollar will fail when the federal government can no longer pay interest on Its debt. Social disorder will be triggered by two factors unique to the United States: one-third of U.S. residents may be forced into looting, and help cannot come from outside. The solution is a neighborhood protection plan as detailed in the spec-ops handbook, A Failure of Civility by Mike Garand and Jack Lawson. Previous social collapses (Sarajevo, Mogadishu, Katrina) teach two shocking lessons: bunker preppers die first and the government is not your friend.

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Frank W. Sweet is an NRA-certified firearms instructor who teaches the safe and effective use of handguns for self-defense. He was awarded an M.A. in Civil War Studies in military history from American Military University in 2001. He is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), Six Gems of Forgotten Civil War History (ISBN 9780939479023), and of numerous published historical essays. To receive a schedule of his firearms training courses, email to The information above should not be construed as legal advice.

Other Backintyme sites: Essays on the U.S. Color Line Armed Citizens and the Law
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