“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
This quote, which is attributed to Thomas Jefferson, unfortunately has a basis in truth. It seems that no matter how many generations pass, like a poison ivy vine growing up among your fruit trees, a tyrant will rise somewhere and inflict unfathomable misery among his people and others. It just seems that some people can’t just let others live their lives – they must exploit them for wealth and power. There will always be someone who wants to rule others, leaving those others with the choice of being ruled or pushing back. Because few tyrants will willingly give up power once they’ve achieved it, this means bloody battles between the people who want to be free and the minions of the tyrants who themselves are often just fighting out of fear. It is too bad that these minions don’t realize how weak the tyrant really is and that he or she could be removed easily if they would simply not follow orders.
The techniques presented in my books and other articles on The Small Investor, if followed correctly and consistently, are nearly certain to lead to self-sufficiency and wealth. The only things to prevent this are natural disasters, illness, family, and tyrants. This is the reason why we’re going to discuss dealing with tyranny today even thought this is a blog of personal finance and investing. We need to deal with the elephant in the room.
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Fascism has evolved
Fascism has evolved over the centuries. Back in the Dark Ages and before, a tyrant needed to use physical force to control people. In Feudalism, a monarch would divide up his kingdom into smaller realms and then place a lord in charge of each area. By promising the lord a share of the goods produced in his area, the king could rely on the lord to use the force needed to keep the people in the area in line. If an area got out of control or a lord decided to challenge the king, the monarch could use his forces, drawn from the whole kingdom, to put down the rebellion, but the lords would take care of quashing the day-to-day uppity peasants that the king could not possibly have the time or forces to control all over the realm.
The rise of communism in the 20th century created a new tool for tyrants. By making everyone send their production to one central pot that the tyrant then controlled, the “dear leader” then had new powers over his people. The communists still have lieutenants out among the people to exercise local control and they could still send soldiers out as needed, now armed with more effective weapons giving their forces superior strength for quelling any uprising. But now the control of the communist parties over resources give them a more effective tool: Because all of the people outside of the party system are reduced to poverty and must rely on the government for their basic necessities, all that the tyrants need to do to silence any dissent is to cut off those necessities. Dictators like Stalin and Kim Jung Il didn’t always need to shoot dissenters, they just let them starve.
Fascism in the digital age is especially scary. The digital economy where everyone’s wealth is just a set of zeros and ones on a computer system make it very easy for a fascist government to seize property and take everything someone has. Currently, the Trudeau government in Canada without so much as a new law or court order is freezing and seizing bank accounts of peaceful protesters and anyone who supported them. Compliant financial institutions, scared of having their businesses targeted, willingly comply with the dubious orders. China has long used a social credit system where those who do what the regime want are given free access to the economy but those who raise any sort of resistance can be shut out of society to starve and die of exposure. Certainly the COVID passport was a measure many government wanted to enact that could easily then be changed into a social credit system.
The effect of this sort of punishment is chilling. It is especially effective against older individuals who have worked and saved their whole lives in preparation for retirement. They could see everything they worked for taken away in an instant, leaving them destitute in retirement. Given that older generations are the ones who remember the USSR, Cambodia, and other communist dictatorships, where the young have largely been indoctrinated to believe that socialism can be instituted in such a way as to create a paradise for the poor and middle class, social credit systems are especially detrimental to the generations that would be most likely to put up a resistance.
Dictatorships have a weakness in that if a large majority of the population fights back at once, they can win their freedom. But it is unlikely to get the groundswell needed to overthrow a tyrant or oligarchy if anyone who even makes a statement the regime doesn’t like could lose everything. So the question is, in a society where you could be reported to the authorities for any comment against the leaders and lose everything, how can people protect themselves but still be able to fight back against the system? Luckily, there are ways to get around account seizures and seeing your traditional accounts frozen if you have the support of a wide group in the community. We’ll discuss these today.
It’s all about communities
Fighting back against a tyrant requires that there actually is a tyrant. If actions like freezing accounts is done against people and small groups who truly deserve it, such as true terrorist networks and drug traffickers, the actions I’ll describe will not work. You will need most people in the population to feel the same and to be united in their fight against the tyrant because you need help from basically everyone. You need a lot of people involved, enough so that for the tyrant to arrest and or kill all of those involved would be suicidal since he or she would be destroying most of the people who produce goods and services that he or she uses. You must remember that the tyrant needs the people in the society who produce things. The population does not need the tyrant.
And the secret to fighting back comes from the use of local communities. Almost everyone needs to do their share and have agreements to support each other. As Benjamin Franklin said when signing the Declaration of Independence against the King of England, which would mean a death sentence for anyone who signed, “If we don’t hang together, we will certainly hang separately.” If a population is going to oppose tyranny, everyone must work together.
Small communities, cut-off from the view of the fascist, are particularly effective at working together and providing for each other. Such a group should be able to get everything needed for the community locally with only a small amount of trade needed to get things that can’t be produced internally. Pioneers were able to be self-sufficient, only requiring a small amount of trade to gain things like nails and metal tools. Certainly a group of 10,000 to 20,000 people can make everything they need to survive. And while a tyrant can kill or imprison everyone in such a community, he couldn’t do so if there were dozens or hundreds of such communities scattered all throughout the country. The secret is to not provide a target. The more things are organic and power is decentralized, the more effective a resistance will be.
One key is barter
Realize what money really is. Each dollar bill, pound, yuan, or euro is a an IOU one person gives to another during a trade. A gift certificate that allows you to get something you want later on for some work you did or something you provided earlier. Using currency makes it easier to trade because you don’t need to trade for something immediately and you don’t need to find someone who wants just what you have to trade and who has just what you need. But there is nothing stopping you from using a barter system if the accounts of several people have been frozen.
The barter system is made even more effective if a general store concept is created. At a general store (or a black market, if you’re doing this underground because of a tyrant) people can trade whatever they have in for some sort of credit that they can then use at the store (or maybe even save for later) in exchange for things they need that others have traded to the store. The store owner can be compensated for his time and possibly space by taking a small cut of the good traded. This was the way things were done a lot before countries established formal currencies or in remote communities and work quite well. The only issue is that people in the community will need to be producing goods to trade, such as food, materials, tools, clothing, etc…. Services could also be traded, but it makes things a little more tricky.
You can also use government-issued currency in addition to a barter system. Perhaps you have individuals who are not able to go to the bank and get currency themselves because of targeting by the government, but they have the ability to provide goods and services. Those that still have connections to the financial system can provide currency to those frozen out in exchange for their goods. The frozen can then use that currency to get the goods and services that they need from others in the community.
Of course, tyrannical governments realize this weakness and many who are or who wish to be dictators are looking at ways to eliminate paper and metal currency. Even if it is phased out, however, there will probably be enough physical currency in homes and mattresses to be used for years to come. A community could also create their own currency. All that is required is that the people trading agree to honor whatever is being traded as IOUs. Having a community and knowing who you are trading with helps with this system.
Give credit where due
So, barter can work as long as people are productive, but what if you have elderly individuals? These individuals may have worked and saved up their whole lives, thinking that they were set. Maybe they has a few million dollars in investments and were planning to live off of the income generated. Then a tyrant comes along and seizes everything.
A tactic that can be used when you have individuals whose wealth has been frozen or confiscated is to use a credit system. For example, let’s say there is an older person who you know had several thousands of dollars in assets before he said something that caused the government to freeze his accounts in retaliation. Perhaps he even has an old bank statement that shows how much he had. Or maybe he doesn’t have that sort of proof, but you know that he is an honest person and you can take his word that he had the money.
In this case, the person worked for and earned the money in the past, so he would be able to buy the things he needed if his bank accounts hadn’t been seized and stolen. If the population is eventually able to overthrow the dictatorship and restore freedom, it may be possible for the individual to gain his wealth back. If not, realize that he does have a righteous claim to the amount of wealth he earned in the past even if the government has illegally stolen it from him. If you wish to help in the struggle for freedom, one thing that you can do is provide credit to such individuals, where they provide an IOU for the goods and services that they receive from you that you could redeem for government currency in the future if they ever gain access to their wealth again.
Now of course, taking IOUs from strangers would come with a risk. Someone could lie about how much money he or she had or just deny the IOUs in the future. Counterfeiting would also be a real possibility. But if you have the community that I speak of, you should know enough people and be able to gain the trust needed to use such a system.
A person taking an IOU in exchange for something he or she made would also obviously be taking a risk. It might be that the person will never gain access to his wealth again and never be able to pay back the IOU. But as long as one knows that the person intends to repay the IOUs, which you can know if you have the communities on which all of this relies, the IOUs themselves can become a form of currency that can be traded within the local economy. In doing this, the risk of non-payment can be spread out to the whole community, thereby reducing the risk each individual needs to bear to an acceptable level.
For example, let’s say that there is a farmer who grows a large amount of food, something that is needed by everyone. Let’s then say that there is a fairly large number of people who we wealthy before a tyrant seized their assets. The farmer could exchange food to several of these people for IOUs on their wealth, hoping that they would regain access in the near future. The farmer could not plant the IOUs, however, to grow the next year’s crops. This would mean he would need to severely limit the number of IOUs he could accept. If he knew he could trade some of the IOUs to people who make tools, provide seeds, or provide other supplies, however, he could supply food to more people and still get what he needed. It is entirely possible that the IOUs would never get paid back, but if that happened everyone would be out a little instead of just a few people – those providing the most critical items – being out a lot.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.