Can One Safely Assume A Rational Government Response to a Crisis?
One of the major dichotomies between preppers and non-preppers is what they expect of the government in a time of crisis.
Non-preppers typically assume ‘We don’t need to do anything ourselves to prepare for a crisis, because if one ever should occur, the government will be there to help us’. Preppers are more likely to think ‘Sooner or later a severe crisis will occur; one which will overwhelm the government’s ability to care for everyone, and so we need to be able to independently care for ourselves’.
Which is the more correct opinion? That’s essentially an unanswerable question, but we get hints about the possible answer from occasional regional emergencies and crises. For example, Hurricane Sandy, three months ago, saw some people without power or water and even without shelter for days, weeks, and in a few extreme cases, without suitable solutions a month and more later.
Lessons from a Level 1 Event – Snowstorm Nemo
As this article is being written, the snowstorm Nemo is dumping snow across the northeast of the US, exactly as had been predicted for some days prior to its commencement. And this relatively minor Level 1 event (ie short duration and/or of only limited/regional impact) gives us another glimpse of what might occur when something really big and bad occurs without warning.
As reported here, the governor of Massachusetts astonished both his state and the entire country when he announced on Friday afternoon, before the storm hit, that he was banning all traffic on all roads. Not just banning rear wheel drive cars on freeways, not just requiring ‘traction devices’ on vehicles (ie chains), but outright banning all vehicles, no matter what their snow capabilities, and on all roads, no matter how snow-covered or snow free they may be. Freeways, highways, surface streets, minor roads, the lot.
The serious of his ban was underscored with the penalties offenders are being threatened with. Up to a $500 fine and/or up to a year in jail.
Although an extreme and rare measure, his actions were then matched by the governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island.
How would you – how do you – feel at having your state’s governor suddenly announce a total ban on vehicular travel, for no reason greater than a shortly to arrive snowstorm? Is the greatest nation on the earth’s best response to bad weather to lock its citizens indoors for the duration, and to cower from the storm’s effects?
Is the first casualty of an adverse event to be civil liberty and freedom? Even a half-decent constitutional lawyer would come up with grave concerns about the constitutionality of such a blanket ban on all forms of travel (other than by foot).
Was This a Rational Act?
But, ignoring those sorts of thoughts for now (if you can) – how exactly is forbidding us from driving anywhere actually helping us? There’s also the underlying and offensive assumption that we can’t be trusted to act sensibly in bad weather ourselves and that therefore the government needs to decide for us, and issue a blanket ban on everyone’s travel, no matter how able they and their vehicle might be to travel in the snow or not.
There is also the question, not asked by the regular media – in areas where the snow removal crews have literally given up and gone home, what happens in an emergency? What happens if there is a fire? A medical emergency? Or an outbreak of lawlessness? How can fire, paramedics or police get to the location?
What if you work shifts and were at work when the travel ban was announced? Or were about to drive to work?
Most of all, and turning now to the question this article is headed by, can we count on ‘the authorities’ – a dismayingly long list of organizations and individuals who claim the power to control and restrict our lives – to act rationally and appropriately when confronting an emergency? Is it sufficient for us to sit back, do nothing, and rely on the government to save the day?
Or would it be prudent to prepare for extreme and adverse situations and to be able to care for ourselves?
These types of actions reveal another reason why preppers seek a retreat location in some states but not in others. Where would you rather be – a state which bans you from travel, whether you could safely travel or not, or a state that says ‘You’re an adult, you’re responsible for your own actions, and we already have laws forbidding unsafe types of driving. Do what works best for you.’?
There’s an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu associated with the governors’ edict banning all road traffic. It is both different – but also similar – to the decision after Hurricane Katrina to impound the firearms of lawful citizens.
Are the Police Mindless Automatons When it Comes to Enforcing Unjust/Unconstitutional Laws?
We’ve often had people discuss various future scenarios with us and tell us ‘Sure, the authorities may issue unconstitutional bans on all sort of things, but our police or military would never enforce them’.
Unfortunately, that is – and demonstrably – not the way the system works. Apart from extremely egregious edicts – for example, if the MA governor had said ‘Shoot anyone, at sight, without warning, if they are driving on the road after 4pm’, it is not the role of front line police officers to question the validity of the orders they are given. They are not attorneys and certainly not scholars of constitutional law and civil liberties. It is their job to do what they are told to do on the basis of what seems to be, on the face of it, appropriate following of their chain of command and the assumption that their superiors know more than they do about the validity of the orders they are being given.
Typically the police take the pragmatic view that it is their job to simplistically enforce the laws as they are written, and it is the job of the courts to decide if the laws are fair, right, and proper. Remember, although the police may arrest you and detain you, they are actually not determining your guilt or sentencing you to punishment. They are simply stopping you doing what appears to probably illegal or harmful activity and delivering you to a court for the court’s decision as to if your actions were acceptable and – if illegal – what the consequences should be.
In that case, the police are as likely to give ‘the benefit of the doubt’ to the court as they are to you. If they are not sure if a law is being broken or not, but if things feel wrong to them, they will probably assume the law might be being broken and proceed accordingly.
The police will of course adapt their enforcement actions based on court decisions, and sometimes their internal legal department will issue advice and guidance as to how new laws should be applied. But whereas most normal laws and regulations occur with plenty of advance notice, allowing everyone to consider and prepare their positions for how it will be implemented and enforced, emergency regulations happen with little or no notice and no time for a careful and rational discussion about the underlying validity of the edict or how it is to be applied.
Again, the best answer to the question ‘What would happen/what would they do’ is to look at past examples.
How many police officers in New Orleans refused to seize privately owned firearms? We’re unaware of any massive resistance at all by the police to that draconian edict.
Has there been any push-back by police at any level, or perhaps by their unions, to the ‘no-one can travel’ orders? If there has, it sure hasn’t made the papers. Indeed, unlike the outrage that welled, but only long after the firearms confiscation, there’s been precious little outrage to the decision to ban all traffic.
There are other smaller examples too – small to us, but huge to the people affected by them. How about the man arrested on charges of ‘hoarding’ petrol after Hurricane Sandy – he went to the gas station with three or four five gallon containers, buying gas on behalf of himself and neighbors. He wasn’t hoarding, he was sensibly helping his neighbors and cutting down on congestion and problems. But his cooperating and coordinating with his neighbors got him arrested as a hoarder, and none of the people got their petrol.
All of these examples point to one last lesson. We already know that, as preppers, we’re a minority in society today. We need to remember that the rest of society does not share much of the same mindset that we have, and in an extreme situation, may (will) not act the way we’d expect ‘rational’ people (ie people sharing our mindset) would act. We say this not to disparage – after all, it is a precondition and underlying tenet of faith that supports the democratic process that not only does the majority rule, but generally, the majority also rules appropriately and correctly.
When to Bug Out
There’s one more thing for people to consider as well. This event shows that the authorities will happily suspend our civil rights before something possibly bad happens, because it is ‘best for us’ if they do so.
For those of us who consider bugging out, but who like to delay that decision as late as possible, perhaps it is necessary to rethink that strategy. If the authorities impose travel bans or 24 hr curfews or call it whatever you like in the future, you’re clearly unable to bug out. It would be terrible to be just about to leave when a travel prohibition takes effect.
It may be something else – maybe there will be a law passed compelling people to share their food. Sounds unthinkable? Not really. Seizing lawfully owned firearms was unthinkable, banning all travel for any purpose in any type of vehicle also seems unthinkable. You need – as a prepper – to consider the unthinkable, and to see the world not just from your logical and fair-minded perspective, but from other perspectives too.
As regrettable as it may seem, the possibility of massive changes to our rights and freedoms may make it advisable to bug out even earlier than you otherwise might choose to do.
Lessons for Preppers
Preppers generally predict and plan for a future with a collapse of government and a lack of any government response after a major impactful event. But there’s another type of future too – where the government goes into overdrive, and rather than doing nothing, might start doing the wrong thing. Perhaps that is an even worse future, and certainly one which also needs to be considered.
As we repeatedly see in minor Level 1 type events, when TSHTF, even in a small way, the authorities can not be consistently relied upon to always act rationally and appropriately.
Furthermore, incorrect and inappropriate decisions by the authorities are likely to be implemented and applied without any second guessing by the agencies in charge of enforcing the decisions – possibly police and other law enforcement, but maybe other agencies ranging from health to environmental to energy.
Preppers need to anticipate not only a future negative event, but they also need to anticipate dysfunctional responses by the authorities – responses that may harm and restrict the ability of preppers to benefit from their preparations and to survive quietly and unhindered by the authorities.
A plan to respond to a future emergency, while prepared fastidiously to be compliant with all ‘normal’ laws that are in place in normal times, might fail due to emergency restrictions and regulations imposed in the panic of a crisis.
For these reasons, we suggest that bugging out early, and moving to a retreat location where the authorities are less likely to inappropriately respond to problems, is an essential consideration.