So this executive order has been making the rounds of the preparedness blogosphere. It’s a bit of a read to slog through, but, accurately or not, it is being seen as another case of ‘.gov coming to take your stuff’. Honestly, I haven’t read it all the way through yet but thats okay because this post isn’t about this particular bit of news, but rather about the notion behind it…that .gov can and willcome to take your stuff someday during a crisis.
Can .gov actually do that? Well, the answer is one of those “Yeah, but….” things.
In recent history I’ve only read anecdotal records of such things happening. During Katrina, there was the famous case of the the cops forcibly taking away a womans pistol. There were also reports of people driving to the disaster scene with supplies for family and firends, getting stopped at police roadblocks/checkpoints, and having those supplies confiscated for distribution/use by the authorities. Stories like these are always hard to prove, and it’s only through amazing fortune that there’s video of that poor woman getting roughed up by the cops.
Before Katrina, I’d read about some incidents back east in Massachusetts where a blizzard event prompted some local authorites to commandeer peoples 4WD vehicles. As I read it, the vehicles were returned some time later but in various states of condition.
What is interesting is that all the instances I’ve read of this sort of thing involve local governments, municipal and state, pulling these sorts of shenanigans. This would seem coutner to what I would have expected since local .gov is usually more accountable since theyre ripping off the people who are their neighbors. I suppose it’s easy for a guy who is part-time mayor of a town to get it into his head that he’s got some sort of ‘lifeboat captain’ authority and demand that folks turn over their stuff for the good of the public, but when it’s all over he better do some fancy talking to justify it.
This isn’t to say that .gov doesn’t do this sort of thing from time to time. Eminent domain is the classic example of .gov seizing your stuff, and although it used to be they could only do that in the name of public development projects like roads and that sort of thing, they can now seize it to be turned over to a private interest if it will bring in more tax money than what you were doing with it.
Theres an old saying that when youre robbing Peter to pay Paul, you can usually count on Paul being pretty cool with that. Same thing applies here…when .gov takes from the prepared to give to the unprepared, the unprepared aren’t going to squawk too much about it. (Heck, isn’t that how income taxes and the Earned Income Credit work?) When your neighbors are hungry and sitting in the cold and the dark, theyre not going to be too concerned about your civil liberties if it means the local armed police (or other agency) will give them your food and fuel because youre “hoarding”.
The notion of enforcers of .gov authority, be it local cops or the regional FEMA boss, knocking on your door and demanding your food and ammo has been a staple of preparedness fiction for about as long as the stuff has been written, but in actual practice it seems to hardly ever happen. Does that mean its something that doesnt bear being thought about as we stockpile our fortified homes? Well, it would probably be a good idea not to put too many eggs in one basket. And, of course, they cant confiscate what they don’t know about so opsec is always a good idea.
With preparedness going more and more mainstream it wouldn’t be a stretch to work out some conspiracy theory that .gov is making plans to snatch everyones preps. I think it would be an amazing tactical and logistical nightmare to try that sort of thing on a national scale but I think it’s been shown to work on smaller, regional, local scales.
So, I guess the moral of the story here is to stay off of the local radar so when the sheriff and his buddies are going down their list your name isnt on it, and to not keep all the ggs in one basket.