World has had a disaster that has caused a global breakdown of society, along the lines of Fallout or The Walking Dead (90% of people have died or been turned into flesh-hungry zombies.) In the five years following this society-changing event a number of settlements, camps and towns have appeared. These settlements are mostly self sufficient but are often threatened by bandits, raiders and hordes of infected that roam the land. One group have decided to solve this problem by having a paramilitary force that will protect settlements and towns against these threats. This group is not self sufficient and has to scavenge what they can without infringing on settlements.


How can this paramilitary police force fund its supplies from settlements without using blackmail or extortion?

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    $\begingroup$ "without infringing on settlements." - Why not to go the traditional way: taxes to keep your guards running? Also "funded" is a term that does not really apply to postapocalyptic setting. It assumes that there is food and other supplies available to buy if you have funds. Postapo is generally extreme scarcity and not a fluid market, so this simply does not apply. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't this exactly how the feudal society began? The Western Roman Empire fell, and the remaining people lived in small isolated communities. Some strongmen decided to offer protection in exchange for food, service and fealty. One or two centuries later, their descendants were known as feudal lords. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 10:27
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    $\begingroup$ "Along the lines of Fallout", police will be funded with scavenged bottle caps. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 11:12
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    $\begingroup$ in most post-apocalyptic scenarios, humans are organized in units no larger than tribes or confederated villages. there is the basis - a tax. or simply warlords staffed with mercs. depends on the scale. $\endgroup$
    – theRiley
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ That entirely depends on your particular take on what constitutes the post-apocalyptic landscape of your setting; by which I mean it's a story element that you have to craft and justify not an issue on which we can give concrete, universally applicable, answers. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 11:42

13 Answers 13


Imagine a civilised world, where every individual pays protection money to the 'local' gang (local in this case meaning a single gang's territory can cover hundreds or even thousands of miles) on threat of kidnapping or theft of property. In exchange the gang provides protection from other gangs and even other individuals within their protection racket who break whatever rules the gang has set in place.

This may sound far-fetched, but if you squint hard enough, this describes every government. You pay taxes on threat of arrest or fines, and in exchange the government provides law enforcement and military force in your defence.

Thus all you need is for each town/village to negotiate a fee with your paramilitary group. In exchange for supplies, your paramilitary will provide protection. The amount of supplies offered will naturally affect the scale of protection provided. Just be careful to avoid having your paramilitary raid towns outside of their purview and to actually protect those with in it, so as to avoid those accusations of extortion.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a slightly better answer than Douwe's. It's the classic "The Lord Humongous was an idiot" answer. If you don't demand ALL the gas, but only SOME of the gas, you just reinvented government. $\endgroup$
    – tbrookside
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ governments have a monopoly on life and death by a geographic region and this 'gang' can use the monopoly for employment. it is a government in a loose sense. $\endgroup$
    – Reed
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ Why have you said to squint hard enough? Open your eyes wide and this still looks like governments, the only difference is scale. and that governments have gotten so big that they offer other services as well such as health and education $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ Heck, it can easily be argued that governments are just gangs that realised their continued existence relies on having the agreement of the people they extort. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 11:35

It depends on what you call "blackmail"

The simple answer would be that the settlements would be happy to share some of their resources in exchange for protection. If they're not willing to share, they wouldn't be protected. I would not consider this blackmail any more than I consider a security guard's wages blackmail.

It would be blackmail if the paramilitary force in question would not leave any choice to the settlements, ie: the main protection would be from the paramilitary force itself. That would be extortion (and standard mafia practice)

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    $\begingroup$ That would be extortion (and standard mafia practice) - A more common example is standard government practice. It's basically the same. ;) $\endgroup$
    – Battle
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ What if one of the protections the paramilitary force offers its paying customers is "no one else gets to set up camp inside our defined geographic area of operation"? If that's one of the rules, then you can't avoid having one aspect of the protection be protection from the paramilitary force itself. If you don't pay, you aren't allowed to be there. $\endgroup$
    – tbrookside
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 16:22

The military has far more to offer than "protection"

Each of the following items can be offered to individuals or communities, and can be either paid for in advance or as they are used, in trade for whatever the military needs.

  • Health care. The military has trained personnel, medicine, supplies, and facilities to deal with emergencies and disease.

  • Transportation. The military has vehicles, fuel, and maintenance personnel which allow the transport of people and goods. In fact, the military could act as the merchants between villages.

  • Communication. For example, from one village to another.

  • Construction and repair of buildings, equipment, etc.

  • A better ability to scavenge what they need, than your average person.

  • Knowledge of advanced subjects (engineering, medicine, etc.) than your average person, and the means to preserve such knowledge.

  • A neutral third party, to resolve disputes. In other words, a court system.

  • A guarantor of democracy. In some countries, the military has a tradition of upholding free and fair elections (e.g. Kemalism).

These apply more to the military than to police.


A religious military order

The group could be something on the same fashion of the Knights Templar, being at the same time a religious and military order to whom people seek not only for protection, but also spiritual support.

This way people would not be only paying for a service, but donating for a religious group as a way to atone for their sins. Even very poor people would be willing to give, in order for a better future in heavens or in the next life.

  • $\begingroup$ IIRC correctly, the Knights of the Temple also ran an international banking operation, and even had custody of the Treasury. Which was maybe one of the reasons Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake. Which is to say: I don't think the Templars were funded by donations. (At least, if Eco is to believed.) $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 9:25

These paramilitaries are able to scavenge from the fallen world.

Sensible people do not stray far from the relative safety of cities. The world has become weird and bad. If you want to roam the wasteland, looking for old technology or salable items, you will need to be heavily armed and ready to fight.

This is the origin of your paramilitaries - they are badass treasure hunters, looking for relics and things of worth in the ruins. They need to be ready to fight monsters and also competing groups of humans. This skill set, once developed, means that branching out into the protection racket is not that difficult.


A common goal

Nobody in the society wants to be eaten by zombies. The easiest way to survive is to pool your resources with other survivors. Together, a group can fend off a zombie hoard, but alone, they would quickly die. The society has enough people to scavenge and defend themselves. In a smaller group, with say 3 people, you could only do one at a time effectively. Two people alone cannot beat off the horde, and it will take two people too long to scavenge, to the point where they will starve. The societies are always looking to merge and recruit new members because no one can survive on their own.


"Without infringing on settlements."

You need to decide on whether this police / paramilitary force is aiming for 'good' / lawful, or for 'evil' (or even 'good in their own eyes but evil to everyone else')

The tone of your question suggests that the original aim is for 'good' / lawful - along the lines of the Knights Templar model suggested in another post Then you need to decide what happens to these who can't pay / won't pay. Are they asked to leave? Are they forced to pay? Are they allowed to stay but the police force makes it known these people are NOT under their protection?

What happens if there are rogue elements within the police force? What's to prevent the leader of the police taking over the leadership and becoming the King? **

Plenty of scope for tension.

** (This happens frequently in history - see the Romans, Kings vs Popes vs powerful Barons etc, and even in modern times - Thailand, various African countries, etc. You could even claim the Eisenhower presidency was a soft government take-over by the former Supreme Commander of the combined US / NATO military forces.)


Several answers refer to mediaeval era, but none mention Arthur—not the fictional king, but the more realistic military leader. His army, which we would probably call a war band at best, was still too large for any regional feudal lord to support permanently. The solution? Arthur moved between Mercia, Powys, Gwent and other early kingdoms, never outstaying his welcome and earning himself a bit of a reputation in the process.

Granted, the historicity of this account is disputed, but I've read versions of it by several authors. John Morris's The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650, is a good starting point.

Apology, this should really be a comment, but I haven't the required rep.

  • $\begingroup$ np, cool you joined Worldbuilding SE :), Helpful informations are always welcome $\endgroup$
    – user55267
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 10:59

It would be a subscription based service. The town or settlement would pay this police, or paramilitary force in supplies; weapons, ammunition, food, etcetera, in exchange for their protection. The bottom line is, since I assume money would be essentially worthless in this world, the bartering system would be used instead.


This is how the feudal society began

Once upon a time there was this great civilised empire, named the Roman Empire. It lasted for quite some time, six to eight centuries, depending on how one counts, but eventually its internal contradictions prevailed, and it split into a poor and unstable western half and a rich and stable eastern half, and in the 5th century the western half fell to pieces.

The economy of the fallen western half of the empire crashed, and the population shrank, and the remaining people lived in small, almost isolated and almost self-sufficient communities.

And in this fallen world some strongmen had the idea of providing protection and a semblance of safety and a sort of justice, in exchange for food and clothes and, most importantly, fealty. Their position was naturally inherited by their heirs, and lo and behold, just two or three centuries later their descendants became known as noble feudal lords.

(And of course the economic basis of the society changed too, with money becoming scarce, and trade shrinking to a shadow of its former importance. For the society was pulverised into a multitude of feudal domains, which ate what they grew, and clothed in fabrics made from the wool of their sheep, and seldom if ever had any surplus produce to sell abroad.)

The bonds of fealty worked both ways, with the vassal owing consilium et auxilium, advice and support, to his lord, and the lord owing protection to his vassal. And this hierarchical society where every man owed fealty to some other man and so on up to the top where the king or duke sat endured for about a thousand years, which period is commonly known as the Middle Ages.


This will depend on whether this paramilitary force is affiliated with one (possibly the largest) settlement, or has to stay independent from any settlements' leaders.

If this force is based on one settlement, then we have a NATO model, where American military is the dominant component of the joint force, while American economy is bearing the heaviest cost. The government of this biggest settlement may ask/demand/threaten other settlements to make substantial contribution to maintain this force, or else they will be on their own.

If this force is independent from any settlements, then, initially, settlements would provide resources to fund this force, but later the force may need to find its own sources of funding, likely taking on mercenary missions. Settlements will pay for a mission when they feel threatened. The risk of this second model is that this force would become dominant among the settlements it thought to protect, and its commander would not be able to resist the temptation to become a king of this settlement confederation.


Police auctions

Police auctions are a thing in some countries, where a police department sells off a variety of items to profit its own budget. In a post-apocalyptic world, you probably don't have to worry much about the legal framework for it, so pretty much anything it gets its hands on and doesn't have to return, it can keep (if you seize a big armoured vehicle for instance) or sell (if you seize a box of wooden sticks).

So what are you going to keep/sell then?

  • Surplus. Decommissioned equipment that can be safely transferred to the public (cars, radios, computers, maybe even guns).

  • Lost and found. Items that nobody claimed after a period of time. That includes items from dead people with no known next of kin. It might also include unclaimed evidence after an investigation is closed.

  • Ill-gotten goods. Once whichever semblance of justice system determines the guilt of people, you can seize their assets. How much you seize and what's the baseline crime for a seizure is up to you. It has all sorts of interesting moral considerations, such as how it affects the innocent (e.g. do you make a family homeless for the crimes of the mother) and how it can warp investigation towards people with the most possessions (e.g. do you plant evidence to upgrade a misdemeanour into a crime and claim that sweet SUV for yourself).


By getting paying customers. Just sell subscriptions.

The Machinery of Freedom:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTYkdEU_B4o http://daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf

Law Without Government:


Legal Systems Very Different From Our Own

Chaos Theory:


  • $\begingroup$ You've got more url links in this answer than actual content. Referencing external sites are fine, but it's always better to provide quotes of the bits that are important. This way your answer isn't invalidated the moment one of those external sites changes. $\endgroup$
    – Kyyshak
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 8:12

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