My thoughts on setting up a community economy

Jerry D Young

Well-Known Member
Trusted Member
A few of my thoughts are posted in the reply, the rest, with quite a bit of duplication, are in the attachment as it was too large to post inside the reply, not to mention the formatting problems.

My thoughts on setting up a community economy:

I have touched on elements of community economies in several of my stories. Most use some of the various concepts above in various combinations. Usually starting out with direct barters and trade, and slowly incorporating both immediate and future labor trades, and then adding pre-1965 circulated US 90% silver dimes, quarters, and sometimes half dollars, plus US Mint one ounce silver Eagles and US Mint Gold Eagles in 1/10th, ¼, ½, and one ounce denominations.

I will sometimes mention foreign precious metal coins, and older US gold and silver coins, but tend to discourage their use in direct trading here in the US. I will address this more later.

Another element that is extremely important in a post disaster and/or PAW local economy is salvage. Some consider all types of salvage operations as looting. But there is much more to it. Taking something from the person or firm that owns it in a crisis situation is looting, just as it is in the types of riots that often occur here in the US.

In a true disaster situation, where there is a large die-off of humans, transportation is limited, communication is limited, and there is little or no effective government left in the area to help organize things, property that very obviously no longer has a legitimate owner becomes just another natural resource that can be mined, salvaged, scavenged, recovered, or otherwise acquired for use.

Now, if the local government is relatively intact, or a community comes together fairly quickly to reform a local community government, that agency may lay claim to everything that no longer has an owner within a defined area. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if the government is actually working in the best interest of the entire community. If not… well then perhaps a new government should be considered.

Anyway, in the absence of such an entity, individuals, families, or small groups should take it upon themselves to recover anything and everything that could be of use in a post-apocalyptic world. That especially applies to short shelf life items that will quickly be ruined by the environment if not taken and stored in applicable storage areas.

Another important resource for people to recover in an area are things that could be used by people that will take advantage of the situation to carry out acts of aggression that they would never attempt in areas that have governments with legal law enforcement and judicial enforcement of the laws of society.

Weaponry is the primary set of items, with anything else that could be turned against a peaceful group and used to destroy them and take their possessions. But there are other things that can be used, such as a bulldozer to get through barriers, home gas cans with fuel for mowers and such that can be used to make fire bombs, structures that can be used to either hide out or used as attack points against a community.

Most of this does involve actually retrieving the items and bringing them into the direct control of the person or group. In some instances it simply means the item will be disabled or blocked in some way so it cannot be used without major effort.

Finally, there are things that might not deteriorate quickly, or be used as a weapon, but could be useful in the future, but would lose that usefulness by being damaged or destroyed by those that do not understand the importance of the item, are just being destructive out of anger or fear, or simply to get it out of the way for some reason.

For heavy duty storage units simply trashed in a riot getting food, that could be used to store the things that are collected during the salvage operations. Insulation that might be needed for harsh weather conditions to make structures livable. Many, many things.

How does subject affect the local economy? Well, in several ways. One is that there will likely be one or just a few people doing it and if they are not ‘nice’ people could take extreme advantage of others. Another way is if there is a mad scramble by large numbers of survivors to get what they can before someone else does it and destroys a great deal in their carelessness.

If precious metals, fuels, and a few other specific items come under the control of just a few people, depending on their attitudes and resulting actions, they could badly skew the economy, either demanding extremes for the goods, or just giving them away, undermining any fledgling economy that is developing. In my stories the good guys usually will wind up being the salvagers and then use them to help the community. This will happen in real life, but certainly not always.

So it would behoove a group to make plans about if they will attempt to salvage if possible, where they would salvage, what they would salvage, and how they would use and/or trade/barter the items.

Back to the actual economy. As I said, immediately after our current currency is deemed by enough people to be worthless, barter and trade will immediately start taking place in a community. Even in the early stages there will probably be some people attempting to use precious metals. They may or may not be successful. Possibly with one or two, maybe more of like-minded people, but not the general population.

Unless, by prior planning, this beginning of barter and trade will be one-on-one trades, handled directly by the two people involved, at some safe location agreeable to both. If there is prior planning in a community, then a secure location has already been set up, or ready to set up, for people to come to in order to do their trading.

A bulletin board for posting what people have for trade, and what they want to trade for should be available, preferably with weather cover so the notices are not destroyed or lost due to weather. This could be an actual cork board with pinned on paper notices, or it could be something like a chalk board or white board. It may or may not have to be monitored or protected if people start taking down other peoples’ notices or otherwise causing problems with the notice board.

It could be a permanent set up for people to make trades wherever and whenever they want, or it could be set up during specific trade days with notices for that day’s trading. Or both could be set up.

Hopefully provisions will have been made for some tables and even chairs so people do not have to lay everything out on the ground or floor on a blanket or tarp. If there is any likelihood of there being small stock, even large stock, available for barter and trade, provisions should be made to handle them securely, safely, and provide at least water, if not some food, such as a secure pasture.

And do not forget about environmental protection. Shade at least in the summer and wind protection in the winter. If one of the disaster you are preparing for is extreme weather conditions you might want to add a misting system for cooling in extreme heat and enclosures for extreme cold or severe lightning.

If the community is going to use fuel for barter and trade, then provisions should be made for tankage and dispensing, with at least some containers (deposit required) for it. If it is just several smaller containers, then there probably is not too much danger. But any storage of 30-gallon drums and larger should probably be segregated and provisions taken to control ignition sources in the area, and containment if there is a leak or spill.

If there might be a doctor or other person with extensive medical knowledge and abilities, having some type of small clinic, even if nothing more than a tent for privacy if outside, or a room for the same if the facility is inside a building, would make bartering and trading medical services much easier. Especially if the medical person is part of the community. A fee could be charged to an outside person that needs the facility to do their work.

Depending on the community, it might be self-policed by the participants, otherwise the community will need to come together if there is not a government established and suitable people selected, armed, and stationed where they can prevent outside interference, and deal with any squabble that might occur between those doing the trading and bartering.

If this is not pre-planned, those doing isolated trades will probably set up something like this fairly quickly to make trading much easier, including setting up some three-way, four-way, or more-way trades.

One person might take on the responsibility and set things up and charge some type of fee for the use, much like current community flea market events with rented booths for those selling or trading their wares. Or it might just be people getting together and doing it as a cooperative group.

If there is any chance or plan to bring additional people into the community after the disaster starts, that have not already set up their locations and supplied them for long term use, provisions should be made to have stocks available of every items the new people might need to equip and supply them for a set period that will allow them to survive until long term renewable supplies of necessities are again available.

While many prepper communities have no intent to allow anyone not already a member of the group to join after the events start, there is a very high likelihood that some members could arrive without enough additional supplies for people they bring with them (even if that is against the rules of the group), or the community decides to bring in outside people to join the community to have necessary or wanted skill sets, equipment, supplies, or other reasons, that probably will not have what they need to survive the early stages of the event.

So one, or preferably more distributed warehouses might be constructed and stocked with appropriate supplies to provide for these people, they would be expected to provide barter and trade items, most likely labor or specialized skills, in exchange. The items could also act as a community reserve if it turns out no people are added to the community, but circumstances arise that destroys individual or group supplies and the people need help.

But after a while, though this system will most likely continue as one part of the local economy, there will come a time when some type of currency will be chosen to make commerce much easier.

That first choice of currency or currency equivalents will be chosen by more or less agreement among the residents of the community. It might even be based on precious metal coins from the start, whether actually used or just values set as benchmarks. But I am almost certain that unless a government reforms and begins issuing a currency of some type, gold and silver coins will become the accepted currency for many transactions, especially those that are done over a distance, are multi-part, very large, or are otherwise difficult without using a portable currency.

At some point, to facilitate the transition and acceptance of the coins, there should be a bank of some sort established, possibly as part of the trade and barter ‘store’. Again, a lone individual could do it if they already have quite a bit of PMs in usable form, or the local government could sponsor it, or people just get together and do it once the necessity becomes obvious.

In Percy’s Mission Percy helped get the process started by providing coins and declaring that he would accept them for what he had available, and pay with them if a person was inclined. In doing so, he simply used the existing local banker and bank building, and suggested a list of equivalencies he would like to go by for various items to equal specific amounts of the precious metals. He kept it simple to make transactions easy.

One thing in the story that might or might not be warranted by a group pre-planning this, was that Percy actually deposited physical coins with the bank, and made arrangements for labor barter agreements to be converted to gold, and even to write modified checks denominated in the precious metal coins for payments, stating he would accept them as well.

Using the standard checks and adding the denomination after marking out the ‘dollars’ preprinted on the checks, signing the check, and using a thumb print as a secondary means of identification, Percy made doing things as close to possible as they are currently. A new account signature card was created for each person that wanted to keep their precious metals in a bank for safety, as well as using the other features Percy created. The card had the account number, the holder’s signature, and thumb print for reference.

The group might decide to keep it strictly a depository with drawing rights against one’s own coins, or do some other system of helping get the coins in circulation and trusted so people will use them.

One thing I would do, if setting up a bank, that if loans are going to be done to help out people get things they need, that strict banking guidelines be set up. No creation of credit by redeposits of loaned out coins, and a strict limit of available coins for loaning. Probably not more than ten percent. So whatever gold there is that gets deposited is all there is.

While pre-1965 circulated US 90% silver dimes, quarters, and possibly halves, along with US Mint one ounce Silver Eagles and 1/10, ¼, ½, and 1-ounce US Mint Gold Eagles would be the best available hard currency, it would be a very good idea to have several reference works on both US and international coinage, particularly pertaining to each country’s historical and bullion silver, gold, and platinum coinage, commemoratives, medallions, awards, and metals. Also any other precious metal items produced by the various governments.

Similar types of references should be on hand to help identify private mint products produced from the various precious metals. Again, from fractional ounce and gram measured wafers, to 100-ounce and 1-kilo bars, to commemoratives to 400-ounce gold delivery bars.

While the other currency coins, especially numismatic versions; and the non-currency precious metal items would not be used as currency due to the difficulty of doing conversions, and their historic value in the case of the numismatics, they can be used just like governments use gold bullion in the form of 400-ounce good delivery bars as part of their store of wealth.

When it comes time to issue a paper or non-PM coinage, these bullion forms of PMs can be used as backing. And, if necessary at some point, the true bullion items can be melted and coins minted for the community to use if there are not enough of the coins already in circulation. Equipment should be obtained beforehand to be able to produce the coins.

Once this goal is achieved and has proven workable and accepted by the community, commerce can begin to occur much like it does today. There would still be trades and barters, as some people would prefer them anyway. But with an accepted currency in circulation, things are much easier.

The best of all possible PAW worlds is if a group sets all of this up beforehand, to make it immediately usable to the community members after a disaster becomes apparent that it is actually a true PAW event. That includes having a trading post ready, trade goods ready, and a bank ready with precious metal coins.

But, under no circumstances activate the use of the PM coins for transactions if there is still a government in existence. It is illegal to create your own currency. And even using existing US coinage will be considered you own currency if you set values to it that are not identical to those marked on the various coins. It is too big of a risk.

For true PAW situations where the infrastructure is pretty much nonexistent, there are a few items that need to be considered for long term survival. Though it is not strictly an economy issue, there are elements to it that do affect the community’s economy. That is the need for certain staple food items, and a few other non-food items.

First and foremost is salt. It would behoove a community to make prior plans on where and how they will obtain a continuing supply of salt. It might include agreements with producers (not just suppliers) of salt, especially small scale operations, to provide the community with salt if it is clear they would likely survive a disaster and be able to continue to produce salt. This may be very difficult to do for some time until a regional economy develops and such necessities trigger production again.

An alternative is to go ahead and scope out sources of salt that would not be too difficult for the community to access and produce their own salt. There are actually several places around the country that have some type of salt deposit that can be mined without too much trouble. And if there is a source for salty water in the area, salt can always be obtained by evaporation.

Another major need is sugar. Probably the best solution to this is to grow sugar beets and produce your own, if possible. Or even sugar cane if the community is in an area where it can be grown.

But if this is not feasible for some reason, provisions as for the salt should be planned for and set up. Sugar cannot be mined, but if a small producer can be found and either arrangements made to get sugar from them in the PAW, that would be good. If it is not likely they would survive or be able to operate, then making plans to use the resource yourself every few years to obtain large amounts of sugar at a time is wise.

Although it is in no way a necessity, people do have their habits and addictions. Like sugar, tobacco can be grown and processed in many places, especially if the community has several large green houses. I would not try to produce large amounts, but having at least some tobacco and the means to process it and turn it into pipe tobacco and cigars could be a very good way to get some high end trade goods.

Spices are another difficult problem. Most come from outside the US. And stocking enough for truly long term situations is difficult. I would suggest a community do everything they can to cultivate someone that would have the means for travelling the world to obtain spices and bring them back safely to the community for their own use, and to use for regional barter and trade for the advantage of the community.

The other alternative, which is probably more practical, is to have specialty green houses to grow the various critical herbs and spices the community needs and wants. If the production is high enough, the products would be great for outside barter and trade, but might have to be restricted for community use.

Three like items are coffee, tea, and chocolate. Very little is produced in the US. If trade agreements can be set up the same way with the spices, then getting them would be great. But, again, at least in the mid stages of the PAW, growing your own would probably be easiest. Like the herbs and spices, having green houses with appropriate climate control will allow the community to grow their own limited amounts. Again, they would be luxury trade goods for the community, with outside trade only if there is excess production.

Though probably out of the scope of a small community with no access to the oceans, international trade transportation outside of North, Central, and South America might not need to be dealt with, but land based, and even some forms of air based local and regional transportation of goods should be planned for to facilitate the movement of goods into and out of the community when the goods become available.

Another subject only related to a community’s economy is postal services. The ability to reliably transfer written documents from one area to another to facilitate commerce will eventually become necessary. Having a highly flexible plan to start up some form of postal service in the PAW will make this much easier, and far quicker to implement that trying to create one when it is already desperately needed.

The same for other types of long range communications apply, such as radio and telegraph networks.

Any of these special situations could be community run, or be a PAW business for one or more of the community residents.

A couple of much easier to handle needs for the community that impact the economy are firewood and other fuels. Either as a community project or an individual business, the growing of a group of large coppicing firewood orchards would produce a steady source of firewood for community use and outside barter and trade. Not difficult to do, but it would need to be started immediately.

Likewise biodiesel, methane, and fuel alcohol production. If a group of large Yellowhorn tree orchards are planted now, they would be available to provide oil for biodiesel production without having to plant oil crops every year. Production equipment can be obtained and stored, as well as the chemicals needed for biodiesel production. Large quantities can be stored, but provisions need to be made to obtain more later, as for salt and sugar.

If the community waste system is set up to get the waste to the methane generators, as well as all animal waste, enough methane could probably be produced to run the biodiesel operation and the stills. This may or may not be practical for the community, but the biodiesel option should be considered.

Feel free to ask questions.

Just my opinion.

Jerry D Young.
Day To Day Preppers