Wealth, War and Wisdom by Barton Biggs – a Book Review

First I introduced you to the new Barton Biggs Book (doesn’t that have a nice ring “Barton Biggs Book”?), and now I present a book review. Okay, well actually I’m just introducing the presenter of the book review, the “Suburban Prepper” who just started a new blog. Take it away – Sub Prep!

Book quotes are in block quote form.


Wealth War and Wisdom – By: Barton M. Biggs, the former chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley.

Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food… It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson. Even in America and Europe there could be moments of riot and rebellion when law and order temporarily completely breaks down.

My goal for today’s post is not to summarize or review this book. My goal is to tease you with few quotes that pertain to the prepared crowd looking for some insight into preserving wealth.

The single most amazing phenomenon was how the stock markets in various countries appeared to be performing and how they were actually performing after inflation was factored in. It appeared that the markets were enjoying healthy increases and people were getting a good return on their money. But after inflation was considered they were actually loosing purchasing power, sometimes severely. Very applicable to today’s US economy.

The Dutch economy: Food was the Best Currency
Just look at the movie Deadly Harvest where the wealthy software developer was willing to trade all his stock, jewelry and other valuables for food. Food stores are the ultimate survival goal. You can never have too much.

Holland … was a huge net exporter of food stuffs, but the Germans stripped the country of its crops … agricultural inventories were nonexistent and that fall the entire harvest went to Germany. … it is estimated that more than 100,000 Dutch civilians literally starved.”
Dutch equities were higher …However, you couldn’t eat stock certificates, and food was what people had to have to survive. To that extent, stocks didn’t work. Food was the best currency in the latter years of the war.

Band Together (Italy 1944 – 1945):
As the survival blogger, Mr. J. Rawles suggests, families should double up. Here is historical evidence that this may help protect you and your family. Vigilantes will look for easy targets as opposed to resolute survivalists:

There was no law and order, and no respect for personal property. Desperate groups wandered the countryside searching for food and loot. Around Lake Cuomo, families that had some wealth banded together, moved their prized possessions to the most defensible villa in the hills, and stood ready to fight for their lives. It wasn’t worth the bloodshed for the roving bands to storm such resolute groups.

Wealth Preservation only via Real Assets and Gold
Is gold the answer to preserving wealth during a catastrophe?

There were three problems with gold as a disaster hedge during those horrendous years. First, in order to sell some of your gold hoard, you had to find either a real buyer or a black market dealer. Both were dangerous in that in a savage society rife with informers and treachery, anything could happen and you might end up in an alley with a knife in your back on the a cellar with the Gestapo.
Second, with either buyer you had to accept a significant discount from the true value of your gold, but that was just a fact of life in an environment in which there was no open market.
Third, you had to hide your gold…. Every … bank had to report the contents … of all safety deposit boxes. The occupation forces used this knowledge to “borrow” the gold by issuing promissory notes.
The people that got rich … during the war were the black marketers. That was where the serious money was made. These sleazy entrepreneurs were adept at converting their profits into real assets, and they used their black money to buy and hoard gold.

It Can Happen To You Too

Once every couple of generations, an epic event occurs that destroys accumulated wealth. A few countries such as the United States … have been lucky – so far – but in Europe the apocalypse has happened in one form or another on a regular, generational basis. The conventional wisdom has always been that owning property (houses, farmland, timberland) are the best safe haven in the apocalypse. Of course land did not meet the instant liquidity test. In the dead of winter … when your family was starving, it was no consolation to be land rich and food poor.


One of the most dangerous scourges of wealth and well-being is hyperinflation. This horribly debilitating economic disease occurs when, for whatever reason, a country prints money, which leads to inflation and then, because of lack of political courage, continues to run the printing presses, and the addictive process spirals out of control.

To Preserve Wealth, Move it Out of the Country

The message for anyone who has either created or inherited big money is don’t flaunt it, and no matter how secure and integrated you feel, always keep an escape hatch open and maintain some substantial wealth outside the country. Just be sure the legal entitlements to that overseas wealth are utterly, incontrovertibly clear.

Overall Mr. Biggs puts together a complex book that has hints of great advice for your average survivalist or preparedness-minded reader. However, I do not recommend it to the average survivalist. If you have significant assets and are worried about global diversification, please seek the advice of a global investment specialist, not a survivalist.

-The Suburban Prepper


– Ranger Man

BTW: This was posted in the comments on yesterday’s scanner post – “Please do a followup article to this post. Many communities have adopted ‘trunking’ and regular scanners won’t work. I wish I knew more, but I don’t!”

Is there a scanner pro reading this? I see police “trunking scanners” for sale right here.

ATTENTION California readers! According to a new analysis, expect THE BIG ONE in the next 30 years – earthquake that is. Read about it right here. This will spell economic collapse for the rest of us when it happens. Of course, better to be financially broke than dead.

Lastly, here’s a good BBC article on why wheat prices are rising so high. What? Too intellectually drained after reading SHTFblog to go visit another article? *sigh* Let me do the work for you. The reasons ARE: curbs on exports by numerous countries, drought, land for biofuels, growing demand, AND speculation by investors. Sounds like the making of a perfect storm.

3 comments… add one
  • ZerCool April 15, 2008, 6:34 am

    What do you want to know about scanning?

    A lot of communities are switching to digital trunking in the 800MHz band; scanners for that range are north of five bills for the time being, and Motorola has told some people that current model scanners won’t scan the latest systems being installed. Matter of time, of course, but something to keep in mind.

    Downside to the digital trunk systems: if there is a major grid failure, the towers, bases, and controllers are only as good as the gensets they’re attached to. After that, digital radios are no better (and arguably worse) than UHF analogs. Battery life should be better, but they don’t have the fall-off range of analog radios.

    Short form: if we reach TEOTWAWKI, don’t be surprised if digital trunked systems are the first to go.

  • SurvivalTopics.com April 15, 2008, 7:11 am

    You mentioned the elimination of accumulated wealth – that might actually be a good thing in the long run.

    It is often accumulated wealth that allows the parasites, merely born into wealth and privilege, to create family dynasties that in a large part run this country.

    If we all start on a more equal footing, the real cream has a more equal shot of rising to the top.

  • Rain April 15, 2008, 8:27 am

    Food production, preserving, and transport is starting to look like the one guaranteed job market. There’ s no substitute, no work-around or alternative source.

    The news is full of food riots as wealthier countries begin to cut back on food exports. Do the skeptics get it? It doesn’t matter now if it’s peak oil, climate change, or another Great Depression. Those are the canaries gasping. If we can’t help them (God knows most of us wish we could), we can at least pay attention.

    Gas prices here at home tick steadily upward, in tandem with grocery prices. And in unrelated news, 80% of the apiaries in Washington are being affected by some type of bee fungus. Everyone grab a paintbrush and start cross pollinating; when the bees stop working the crops stop growing.

    My non-prepper husband turned to me last night and said “So, how hard is it to grow those peppers you were talking about to spice up the beans? Might not be a bad idea to try it out.” (Trust me, that’s like spotting Ben Bernanke pricing #10 cans.) We enjoy our coffee and hot dogs and soup, but they don’t spring up magically in the grocery store. We can and will live on less; now we just have to find it, pay for it, drag it home safely… maybe preserve it, or produce some ourselves.

    The wealthy people of the next few decades will be those who control food and water supplies. I suspect our best bet is to start digging a well, and not for oil, either.


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