Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Post-Apocalyptic Economy and Job Market

As a thought experiment, I imagined what a post-apocalyptic economy and job market would look like. Here is what I imagined: 

It finally happened. The SHTF. It was TEOTWAWKI. Maybe it was war with China that went nuclear. Maybe it was a mutated version of Ebola that went worldwide. Maybe Elizabeth Warren won the Presidency in 2020. Whatever the reason, civilization finally collapsed worldwide. The Apocalypse happened. Now, the remnants of mankind find themselves in a post-apocalyptic world. Everything has changed. Well, almost everything. People still need to provide for themselves and their families. The End came, and we still have to work. What will the post-apocalyptic economy look like?

In my opinion, the apocalypse will lead to:
  • the end of our modern mass-production, throw-away economy
  • the end of globalization and large-scale corporations
  • the rise of localized, agrarian economies dominated by food-production and family-owned small business
  • the emergence of a low-energy economy, as large-scale production of fuel and electricity ceases 
  • Modern fiat currencies will disappear, replaced by barter and tangible assets (gold silver, etc.). 
  • Local currencies will eventually arise as the political situation stablizes, but will typically be backed by tangible assets
There will be no jobs at Google, or Microsoft, or Apple. Not even any jobs at Walmart, or McDonald's, or even Taco Bell. The era of multi-national conglomerates, and even large national corporations, will be over. But there will still be an economy and a job market, because there will still be jobs that need to be done, and exchanges to be made. Most people will work for themselves, or at very small businesses in their locality. But, work at what jobs? What skills will be in demand?

1- Day Laborers.  In a grid-down, post-apocalyptic world, robots and AI will be useless, as will the much of the automation and machines of the industrial era. Most work will have to be done by people and by hand. There will be great demand for so-called low skilled laborers to do the grunt work and heavy lifting that will need to be done. Unfortunately, the day labor work will be hard and low-paying, much like today (except without those pesky safety regulations and modern child-labor laws). 

2 - Medical.  The world-wide apocalypse will destroy the modern healthcare system. Big Pharma will have ceased to exist, as will modern high-tech hospitals, and even insurance companies. The current medical system will be replaced by old-fashioned country doctors and nurses, mid-wives, and apothecaries. Anyone with any medical knowledge will find that knowledge in high-demand, especially those with knowledge and skills of herbal and other natural healing methods. Modern licensing requirements will effectively be null-and-void as the collapse of government leaves no one to enforce those requirements. Unfortunately, this means that charlatans and quacks will appear (the snake-oil salesmen of yesteryear), along with skilled and knowledgeable people. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).   

3- Tinker.  The throw-away economy is over. People with have to repair and make do, instead of just going to the nearest big box store to buy new replacements. Tinkers, people who are skilled at repairing tools and other (usually metal) household items, will be in demand. Knife and blade sharpening fits in this category.      

 4- Food Systems.  Most of a post-apocalyptic economy will center around food production. Homesteading will be the norm by default. Most folks will raise at least a portion, if not most, of their own food. Anyone able to enhance food production (build greenhouses, teach permaculture, etc.) will be in demand. Farmers able to grow enough food to feed others besides just their family will be celebrated. Millers and cannery operators will be in demand. 

5- Water Systems.  As the water infrastructure collapses, those able to dig wells and irrigation systems will be in high demand. 

6- Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sills - Animals, for both food and as beasts of burden, will be extremely important post-apocalypse.  Folks skilled in breeding and/or caring for animals will be in demand. 

7- Sewing.  Again, the end of the mass-production, throw-away economy means people will need to make things last. Sewing skills will be in demand. 

8- Tradesmen / Craftsmen. The ability to build, make, maintain, and repair, especially in a low-energy environment (think hand tools, not power tools) , will be essential to survival of human civilization. 

9- Woodsmen (Lumberjacks, hunters, trappers, tanners, forgers, herbalists, etc.).  Forests contain many resources that will be needed by folks in the post-apocalyptic world. Forests teem with edible plants and animals. Trees provide wood for burning and lumber for building. Leaves provide compost for improving soils. In addition to food, plants and mushrooms provide dyes and medicines, and animals provide furs and leather.  Anyone with the knowledge and skills to extract and process these resources from forests will do well in the post-apocalyptic world. 

10- Traveling Merchants.  Most trade will occur locally, but there will be the need to trade with other regions, too. Those able to set themselves up as traveling merchants should be able to make a lucrative, albeit dangerous, living. Read up on the traveling merchants of the middle ages for a preview of what may be to come. 

11- Salvaging.  Modern civilization will leave plenty of material behind. Salvaging that material for use post-apocalypse will be an opportunity for those with the appropriate skills and tools. It also is potentially dangerous, as you may have to deal with anything from dilapidated building to competing scavengers. 

12- Entertainers.  People like to be entertained, and TV, movies, and the Internet will be gone. Before mass media, there was high demand for traveling entertainment - circuses, carnivals, vaudeville acts, and so forth. 

13- Vice.  In hard times, people like to be distracted from their troubles. Many folks will turn to abusing alcohol, drugs, and sex for that distraction. Just study what happened in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Or what happened in Argentina after their economic & political collapse in 2001. Or what is happening in Venezuela right now. Sadly, there will be folks unscrupulous enough, or desperate enough, to supply vice to those who to want it.  There are better, safer, more moral options (see numbers 1 - 12 above).

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