I don’t know any survivalists personally, or if I do they’re keeping it quiet, but they’re on the fringes (ha!) of my circle of friends. Or people I read discuss them. It’s a side effect of still finding libertarianism useful, if not compelling: every now and then someone will link to a blog post, or comment on a news story, which concludes that the latest change in Federal Reserve / NSA / State Dept / TSA / HHS policy means it’s time to start hoarding ammo, canned beans, and gold. It’s these guys I want to address.
Ignore for the moment whether a stockpile of gold would be at all useful in the post-apocalyptic hellscape you’re envisioning (it wouldn’t), or whether the collapse would be so precipitous that it would lead to ravenous mobs at your door overnight (it won’t)*. Set aside the feasibility of your strategy and focus on the likelihood of your premises.
It takes only a nodding acquaintance with history, from Vesuvius to Poland, to know that the people who survive cataclysms are not the ones who hunker down. It’s the ones who pick up and run. It’s the people who are willing to condense their worldly possessions down to one suitcase, and then abandon that suitcase. They’re the ones who make it out of Indonesia, Cambodia, Rwanda. Everyone else either conforms to the new order or, if the new order will not compromise, gets killed.
Homesteading is part of American history and culture, so it only makes sense that extreme homesteading (bunkers, bullets, bottled water, beans) would be part of the extreme fringes. But it’s no more likely to keep you alive than getting the hell out of Dodge.
There’s probably some deeper critique of survivalist homesteading available here, about the weird American conflation of freedom and property – one can be truly, politically free and tied to a massive tract of land that contains every convenience – but that’s beyond the scope of this post. Point is: anyone who tells you to start hoarding guns or gold in anticipation of a collapse of social order does not know what they’re talking about.
* A failure of the power grid, maybe; a change in health care, no.