How People Survive (Or Not) in a Collapsed Economy

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by J.G. Martinez

No matter what the media says about how things are now, how you perceive reality is what truly matters. I know keeping false hopes can be hazardous. (I have experience with that, trust me.) Confirmation of that is found in deep insights like the ones in this Hopium article.

After one month of adjusting to my perception of this little town in Venezuela where I lived more or less peacefully until my early adulthood, I can acknowledge my vision while away was not exactly the most accurate.

Observations of the businesses and trades here

Those wealthy enough, for sure, have no problems, even if that wealth is mainly invested in facilities within our borders, machinery, vehicles, real estate, and properties. However, I do notice many empty commercial rentals. One primary reason for the empty rentals is people are not adequately analyzing the market here. I see this all over, not just here, but in many other cities, Lima included. It’s not something new, but the cruelty of a deprived economy reinforces terrible business choices.

Lack of planning and preparation is a sure way to kill any entrepreneurial endeavor. One MUST do a proper market study before entertaining the thought of opening a business in the middle of a slow-motion collapse. This process involves plenty of experience, knowledge, and a critical capability: awareness. 

For example, if you’re the only shoemaker in town, you can expect an overwhelming amount of shoes to repair, along with some basic sewing and clothing repair.

I see the economy has been more or less working

It is a skills-based economy. In our small town, the diesel engine and gasoline engine mechanics, car electricians, home electricians, plumbers, and non-specialized laborers are usually busy. Hairdressers seem to have enough customers to keep them more or less busy. (During the pandemic, they went to their customers’ homes.)

Most people who repair things, whether they’re good at it or not, can make a living. We even have a pair of locksmiths, something unexpected in a town this small. 

Of course, those who produce food always have consumers. Our traditional white cheese, grain coffee, and stuff like semi-industrial homemade cornmeal (flour) for arepas will find their way to the market. Those selling semi-processed foods (birthday cakes, fried dinner items), pastries, semi-industrial sausages, chorizo, and industrially smoked pork chops find a market, too.

Daisy has talked about this before – producers vs. consumers.

Everyone wins with good, honest trade

I saw a young man buying some groceries right before me in a small produce shop. He had a 10 dollar bill. The shop cashier quickly calculated how much local currency was, according to the official rate. As the staples he wished to purchase did not total 10 dollars, and the cashier had no change, she asked him to add another item. He chose a few popsicles for the kids from a jar on the counter, a little garlic, a couple of onions, and some oranges. He was a little bit over the 10 dollar mark, but she let it pass. Everyone wins. 

Those 10 dollar bills surely will land in someone else’s pockets and will remain as hard currency for quite some time. $5 banknotes are hard to get. $1 coins are usually not accepted, while $1 bills are sold at 25% to 40% above their worth. Merchants buy them to have change available. (I talked more about money exchange here.)

People who could not leave found a way to survive

Luck is a factor, but a minor one. Developed and polished skills are undoubtedly a major one in such success. My family and I have had plenty of time to talk. After five years of not being face to face, you may guess we have much information to share. My family’s consensus is people have survived with some degree of relative comfort because they: 

  • never stopped working
  • did not wait for any handouts
  • did not expect things just to get better

As for the others…

Those who did not fare so well were those who lacked the aptitude to produce or generate. Less creative people accustomed to routine work had their world suddenly torn apart, leaving them in a living hell. Many people who worked in retail selling clothing suffered because people can reuse the same clothing for years without too much trouble.

Under these circumstances, one needs to barter whatever and whenever it’s possible. 

The best possible advice is valid in any economy: produce something that requires less investment and adds the most significant value to your customer’s lives.

Some things are not exactly ideal

Oil industry jobs, as well as most of the related service and product industries, are gone. Salary in the national oil industry is a total joke. Buying a new car is impossible. The only new motorcycles a person can buy for a reasonable price are inferior Chinese brands that won’t hold together after a couple of years of regular use.

Plants have come to a halt. I had the gut feeling this would happen, and that was why I tried to put some stuff together over ten years ago and begin prepping. 

I see many elders on the streets that could be doing better

Many elderly people walk the streets with a handcart, offering vegetables or fruits. Children usually walk with them while they sell or barter whatever they can harvest or grow. They may not be the more giant tomatoes or potatoes you find in the shops (brought by truck from the mountains 3-4 hours away), but surely they will keep you healthy. And, they are tasty and locally grown. 

Many of them receive rice packages, eggs, pasta, beans, and other things in exchange for their goods. 

You are the creator of your own story

One reason I came back, other than feeling un-rooted and disheartened, was to create a different meaning to my life. I chose to travel back and live in my country (for a while at least) to make a decent living on my terms, on known terrain. And to avoid dependency on someone else to keep my pantry and kiddo’s belly full. With The Great Reset marching on, it’s more important than ever to have a place of my own with decent land to grow food, herbs, greens, spices, something. Anything. 

The most important lesson that coming back has taught me is how keeping stress under control can improve your life. Maintaining a balance between proper relaxation and the “beneficial stress” state (if such a thing exists) is highly productive and makes us work more efficiently, where it matters. 

About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t  go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible…But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.

 Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on PatreonDonations: paypal.me/JoseM151 or the BTC address 3QQcFfK9GvZNEmALuVV8D6AUttChTdtReE

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