7
$\begingroup$

I am thinking about a realistic Earth scenario following total economic/social collapse as well as mass extinction of humans on Earth (90%+).

The scenario involved "stragglers" who try and eek out life in a classic survival tale, however it also needs to describe how the elite 1%s prepared and maintained life after the event.

For the purposes of the scenario, it can be assumed that:
- the event occurred in the current era of human civilization, and there is no hidden or magic technology available.
- by wealthy, it is meant the extreme elite 1% who have small-nation like finances at their disposal.
- they had engaged in any/all kinds of necessary preparation for an unforeseen event, and they survived this particular event. Although the nature of the preparation may vary.
- they do not face any particular ongoing threat to existence, be it disease or violence, although they have lost the entire supply chain of sustenance and technology that advanced civilization provided.

The basis to the question is that the extreme wealthy are particularly dependent on the supply chain of civilized society - be it advanced technology to skilled human labor, whereas the poor may already be adept at sustenance style living on the land. Do they give up all the trappings of wealth and join peasants on the farm? Do they barricade themselves in doomsday bunkers with 100 years worth of spam and hope their TV doesn't die? Do they join up with other wealthy and chosen followers and try and create a small isolated Utopian nation while preserving enough of the technological supply chain to keep living an advanced life (with a particular focus on environmental sustainability)? Or do they try and resurrect preexisting society by trying to establish a political class/system and bringing the broader economy alive? Any other possible scenarios.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why the assumption that the wealthy are particularly dependent on the supply chain? Enjoying life's luxuries is not the same as depending on them, you know. Since you say the wealthy survivors have prepared, surely part of the preparation would be learning low-tech survival skills, and they would have both the money to pay for good training, and the free time to do it. OTOH, while the rural poor (and middle class, and quite a number of wealthy farmers) might be adept at living on the land, most urbanites wouldn't be. After all, there are urban kids who think food comes from McDonalds :-( $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 29 '16 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf "Why the assumption that the wealthy are particularly dependent on the supply chain?" -- in the sense that they own lots of stuff that needs maintenance, fuel, spare parts -- in order to continue living a life anything like what they are used to. How much stuff stops working when electricity dies? $\endgroup$ – aaa90210 Nov 29 '16 at 5:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But as I said, all those things that the wealthy own are luxuries, not necessities. They are no more dependent on them (on average) than your poor/middle class urbanite is on all the services the city provides. Say you're the rich guy who owns a big ranch in Montana. You (and your staff) can probably survive a collapse pretty well, just like your less wealthy neighbors. OTOH, the wealthy dweller in a Park Avenue penthouse is not going to be much better off than the residents of Brooklyn or Harlem. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 29 '16 at 18:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Bottom line is that a collapse means that NO ONE (well, barring survivalists, the Amish, and similar fringe groups) can continue living the sort of life they were used to. The adaptable will survive, as will those, rich or poor, who had the wit to see the collapse coming and the resources to prepare for it. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 29 '16 at 18:21
6
$\begingroup$

It will depend on what caused the mass extinction, and over what time period. Let's say, hypothetically, that it is the most likely scenario - the walking dead debt-based financial system finally collapses, and at the same time, global warming starts to have serious effects. The 90% extinction will take a couple of generations in this scenario.

So we are talking crop failures, mass starvation, wars over food and water supplies, diseases like cholera and typhoid making a comeback, etc.

The elite will bunker in safe places for about 50 years. In those places, there will be electricity, modern medicine, etc, etc, etc. Pretty much normal middle-class Western lifestyle, except for the limited mobility because of the hordes of starving and diseased poor people outside the bunker.

If they have enough time to plan and stockpile supplies, they may even be able to travel between bunkers in helicopters.

They would be very well equipped with weapons, ammunition, and military personnel to use them. The average Joes outside, even if they did have guns, would run out of ammunition within a decade, so the elites would be like the Israelis in Gaza - using guns, tear gas, and rocket launchers against people throwing rocks.

They might venture out to raid for additional stocks of canned food, but they would most likely have at least 100 years supply for population of the bunker before things go bad. (Plus hydroponic vege gardens, growing mushrooms on the recycled waste products, etc.)

Once the dying-off process has cleaned out the bulk of the population, the elite would begin trading with the surviving tribes. Fresh meat in, medical supplies and metal goods like sewing needles out, and so on. Tribe life would be more difficult than life for the early American settlers, because there won't be horses, oxen, etc. Everything will need to be done by human hand. Poor areas in India and South-East Asia could provide examples of how this works.

By the third or fourth generation, the elites would be able to emerge from the bunkers, because nobody would dare lay a finger on the "High Ones" that can save lives and provide magically useful manufactured goods. Anyone harming a High One would be shunned from human society, because if a tribe harbours a criminal, the High Ones won't help the tribe any more.

In generation four or five, you might have enough rebels outcast to form their own, independent tribe, that hates the High Ones.

Meanwhile, the elites will be working on re-establishing the basis of their technology, maybe going more for solar and wind power, because they are easier to deal with than fossil fuels. Vehicles would run on biodiesel. The army personnel from inside the bunker would be now be a hereditary warrior caste, whose good-looking daughters might marry into the elite, but not the sons (if we stick with today's cultural mores). The less physically-fit members of the warrior caste would do the janitorial level positions.

There are a few possible scenarios - an ambitious military type might stage a coup against the elite, in which case the medical and scientific personnel would be lower caste than the military by generation four or five. Bunkers might start wars with one another, especially if the military are in charge. Younger members of the elite might start to chafe at the restricted life, and want to leave the bunker prematurely, or help the outsiders by giving them contraband.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I like the idea of a new warrior cast. Something like Dune is coming to mind. $\endgroup$ – aaa90210 Nov 29 '16 at 5:56
6
$\begingroup$

Mass extinction of 90% of humans would send civilization straight back to the 19th century, but no further down. Humanity would lose the ability to make semiconductors, mobile phones, computers, automatic transmissions, and so on; but the knowledge to make steel and diesel engines and steam engines and electric generators and wired telephones is much too widespread to be lost; same for such fields of knowledge as law, economics, or medicine -- they won't have modern antibiotics, but sulfa drugs are not hard to make.

After such an event the consequences will vary by country; it is indeed possible that some (small-ish) nations will degenerate into a sort of feudalism, but in reasonably developed nations what will happen is that those who think that they are wealthy will quickly find out that their material wealth has been nationalized, of course, just for the time being until the emergency is resolved, you will get it back, we promise. Financial wealth will of course be worthless.

And here is the rub -- that fabled one percent elite who rule over all of us get their power from their financial wealth. They, it is said, control the banks and the corporations; but after a dramatic collapse financial wealth simply dissappears, it vanishes like dream. And actually a dramatic collapse is not needed: most nations will use any kind of perceived national need to disempower the elite. In the USA, top income tax rate was 90% or more from 1944 to 1963. In France, after WW2 they nationalized just about all major industrial corporations.

Losing their financial wealth will mean that most of the members of the elite will find themselves out of the club, because in a world where money has no value (and actually there is no money, since the current electrons and paper or polymer bills will lose their magic) what counts is charisma, and physical strength, and luck. Why would anybody listen to Mr. Moneybags who was somebody before the collapse? What can Mr. Moneybags provide in exchange for goods and services?

Bonus: In my opinion the best treatment of a sudden collapse of civilization is Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, with the observation that it concentrates on a small area in America and makes no attempt to consider the wide world.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If there is any kind of advance warning, though, Mr Moneybags will stock up on guns, ammo, medicines, water purifying equipment, etc. So he will have plenty to trade, and a few guard thugs to make sure his bunker isn't robbed. $\endgroup$ – Jnani Jenny Hale Nov 29 '16 at 10:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Jnani Jenny Hale – "Mr Moneybags will stock up on guns, ammo, medicines, water purifying equipment" ... which will be promptly taken from him by the state or by a better fighter or leader of men. Think of how feudalism began: it was not the former senators or governors or rich merchants who became stem-dukes, but rather the better warriors. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 29 '16 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ When 90% of the population dies, there is no state. And unless the whole thing is an utter surprise, which is not the scenario, Mr Moneybags will have his own private security force. Probably drawn from former police and army personnel. Look at what happened in Russia - the wealthy become the warlords, because they controlled the tanks and guns. They literally bought themselves army bases, complete with troops and weapons, because the state ran out of money to pay the wages. $\endgroup$ – Jnani Jenny Hale Nov 29 '16 at 11:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Actually in Russia the warlords / gang leaders / ex-KGB officers became the wealthy. When there is no state there is no force stopping the leader of the security force from taking over his employer's wealth. And usually the leader of the security force is much better at fighting and commanding men than the effete financier. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 29 '16 at 11:59
1
$\begingroup$

They would probably live like medieval Kings.

Have access to the nicest accomodation,food,women and weapons. Have horses and servants. Be respected by everyone.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Not horses. Unless the elite deliberately took horses into their bunker with them (and why would they, if they had biodiesel SUVs?), the few horses that remain anywhere near human settlements would be be eaten by the starving hordes. $\endgroup$ – Jnani Jenny Hale Nov 29 '16 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Jnani Jenny Hale: Because unlike SUVs, horses are pretty good at reproducing themselves :-) If you live far enough from urban areas, there are plenty of deer (and antelope &c hereabouts, not to mention herds of open-range cattle), which your horses will help you catch. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 29 '16 at 18:25
1
$\begingroup$

First, are you talking about one percent of the population or about the proverbial 1% who get mentioned in political debate? A bit of googling says that you need annual earnings of approx EUR 30k or a wealth of approx EUR 600k to make it into the top percent worldwide. (I'm not going to quote a link because I looked at several sites for a ballpark figure).

So many towns and suburbs in the US or Europe might survive with most of their population. Probably a surplus of young male professionals and a distinct absence of single moms.

People like that, what to they have?

  • They might own their home.
  • Some tools, some supplies, but not enough to last out a disaster.
  • Organization skills. They know how to make project plans, to stick with them when necessary and to adjust them when necessary.

What will they lack?

  • Bunkers. Perhaps a storm shelter if they live in tornado alley, nothing more.
  • Ammo. They might have a gun, even in Europe where licensing is stricter, but they won't have enough ammo to defeat a zombie horde.
  • Survival skills. They spend their time at a profession, not hunting for food in the woods.
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I mean the very wealthy, i.e. the proverbial 1%. Assuming they have the foresight to plan for a disaster, what would they do? $\endgroup$ – aaa90210 Nov 29 '16 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ a distinct absence of single moms. - why? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 29 '16 at 13:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Mołot, I wrote when I took the 1% literal and not proverbial. The likelihood that a single mother will earn enough to get her family into the top 1% worldwide is rather low. By comparison, a DINK couple (double income, no kids) or a man without children might manage.Statistically speaking, there are more single moms than single dads. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Nov 29 '16 at 16:28
0
$\begingroup$

Their employees are the biggest threat or resource.

Unless those guys are completely paranoid they will probably try to bring a few colleagues, friends, and most definitely employees with them to their bunkers.

You will have some people for general maintenance, cooks, mechanics, hunters, mercenaries or private security, maybe even butlers and maids to keep their bunkers working in a decent fashion.

However, as soon as the worlds truly ends money will have no value and if your rich guy used to be an asshole to the maid, then he might as well find himself shanked to death with an old toothbrush during the night, all his resources shared among his old employees.

If they are completely paranoid and try to go alone into the bunker, then they will slowly go crazy from the isolation.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.