Episode 680: Why Do You Need All That?

Zombie Cliche Lookout: Favors

The zombie apocalypse will have a profound effect on pretty much every aspect of our lives and society. Generally speaking, we focus of the more obvious and visceral things. We lose power. Food is increasingly hard to come by. Law enforcement and public order is completely destroyed. Oh, and all your friends and loved ones who are killed will reanimate as mindless zombies unless you destroy their brains. That last one is kind of a big deal.

While all those things are really interesting, I think it’s also fun to look at some of the less obvious effects of the zombie outbreak. Money, for instance, won’t retain its value for very long at all. Of course, people are still going to need to exchange goods and services, so they’re going to need to come up with a different way of doing that. Not a new way, in fact, but a very old way: bartering. Because of this, people’s word and reputation will start becoming more important, and losing your reputation might just mean you can no longer engage in life-sustaining trade.

About this Episode:

I originally wanted Cheryl to say something along the lines of “Why do you need all those old man drugs?” The problem is that Cheryl didn’t really get a good look at Sam’s list, nor is she in healthcare so that she would recognize the use of the listed drugs. Compromises, people, compromises.

Discussion Question: Small, Important Changes

Building on the above, what other sort of changes do you think will be caused by the zombie apocalypse? I’m not talking about the big obvious stuff, but the smaller, more esoteric changes. How will society need to adapt in order to survive? For instance, fantasy football is going to be a little tougher to do.

16 Comments

BrickVoid

Um, who exactly did save his ass, and how? All I recall is that Tara saved him from becoming zombie food by letting him sleep the night in the safety of their house, not that she actually saved him from some zombie. 😀

I wonder, is Dave still hiring that continuity expert? 😉

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Dave

I still consider that saving his ass. How long could Sam have survived in the dark and exhausted?

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rattraveller

Not answering your question but I do not believe bartering will last very long. In the initial phase such as we are seeing in the Walking Dead they are not bartering, they have gone completely socialist with everyone working and everyone sharing.

If you read the Walking Dead comics you know (Spoiler Alert) they will soon have a multi community society where they are using barter but this cannot last long.

The reason coins were invented was because bartering is to unyielding to use in a large society. As soon as a strong central authority is established some kind of currency will be established. Since most people are used to using money they will see this as a major step toward normalcy.

The real questions are what would they use to back the currency and use for the currency. Gold and Silver would probably not work so something that is important and easy to control by the central authority such as units of water or electricity might.

As to what the currency would be made of I leave it up to ya’ll.

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Dave

Interesting take, I’m still way behind in the comic. One of these days I’ll catch up.

Yes, bartering would be difficult to do long term with a large, complex society. That said, the big problem with printing or striking currency is that people have to trust that it will retain it’s value. I think it would take people quite a while to build that kind of trust after a surviving a catastrophic event and likely seeing all sorts of power struggles and violent regime changes over a short period of time.

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Ballinabricky

“destroy” -> “destroyed”
Don’t lose your edge, BrickVoid!!!!

…and I made a rhyme…

🙂

As for the question, I do think there may be initial banding under commune type structures, but that won’t work for very long. It never does. It runs too contrary to human nature, and they will collapse under their own stress. Somebody unseats the leader, or the leader dies and there’s a power struggle for succession. Or somebody wants to be the leader in a community that isn’t supposed to have one. Or somebody wants someone lover, or food, or weapon, or whatever. The only place I’ve seen communal property work in the long term are the Israeli Kibbutz, and (for a variety of reasons), we shouldn’t expect their level of success to be replicated in the circumstances we’re talking about.

Human beings will essentially be returned (temporarily) to a form of hunter-gatherer stage.

Barter between individuals will probably first be food and weapons (things of immediate need). However, if a more stable community is not formed relatively quickly, those individuals will not live very long (with a few exceptions, of course).

Once a community is stable enough to be relatively safe (like the prison or Alexandria on TWD), barter will likely be for goods which can no longer be manufactured (metals, metal tools, working vehicles, generators, solar panels, gasoline, etc) — but those resources are all locally exhaustible, so if the community is to survive, substitutes are going to have to be found. Gasoline eventually expires, as do medicines and lots of food. If you’re not making new cartridges, ammo will eventually run out. Working vehicles are great, but they’ll need oil changes as well as belts and tires and whatnot eventually. People will have to adapt their living strategies, adapt their technologies, or die.

At this point, like frontier towns, stable communities will have contact with each other, patrolled, (relatively) safe routes of travel between them, and some specialization will have developed (i.e. certain needed goods produced to surplus by some communities and not others — communities that cannot produce things that others need will not survive). There’s no reason to think that gold and silver (and possibly other metals) will not reemerge as currency. That is what has happened every time throughout human history, and there are marked benefits to it. It’s true that in the early stages, gold will not be much use, but by the stage that we are again seeking a portable means of wealth, people won’t be worrying about where their next meal is coming from.

Metal for tools and weapons is going to be in great demand, and while most industrial mining will have stopped, small towns (which they will be by then) near deposits close to the surface will again begin mining to have something worth trading (hey, if Iron Age man could do it, so can a 21st century community near an abandoned mine, no?).

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Dave

Some very interesting thoughts here. I really like how you focus in on metal. I would suggest that, instead of mining, people might engage in large-scale recycling efforts. It would be a lot easier to scrap out non-functioning cars and trucks than mining and smelting ore, right?

Also: typo has been fixed.

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BrickVoid

It might be, but due to the tools you’ll no doubt require in order to strip out such cars, there’s going to be a need for a large enough industry that can manufacture such tools in the first place. 😀 Ore processing is a lot easier due to the fact that you need a lot less overall tool usage to set something up. Consider also that a lot of today’s cars are essentially recycled in the same fashion as ore is after the initial processing stage, that is, after the component parts have been separated by type, then remanufacturing them is essentially smelting them down into an ingot again. 😉

That being said, I could see the possibility of someone making stamped coin cutouts from “genuine Buick metal” and nobody would really care as long as what was being bartered was represented by whatever governing authority enabled these coins to be used as legal tender. 😀 It would, however, mean that “legal tender” would become locally meaningful, with a large possibility that a state or federal governing body would be largely inoperative or mostly zombiefied! 😉

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Ballinabricky

Yes, but cannibalizing old cars is not *really* “recycling.” The communities that become stable and safe enough to make it to that stage would be there for decades if not longer. If using gasoline vehicles is an integral part of your plan for zombie patrols to keep trade routes open, you’re in trouble. Fifty years on, finding abandoned cars in the wilderness that are not so rusted out as to be useless will be virtually impossible (to say nothing of gasoline, tires, belts, etc).

Other metals may be used, but they will likely be metals that meet two requirements:
1 – materials that have a practical value (i.e. you could melt down the coins and get your smith to make a shovel — in a pinch, not as a matter of course — just that the metals would be capable of that. Copper might be a good one here)
2 – materials that are scarce. Whatever it is that everyone has access to is worthless.

The reason that I say gold and silver will likely come to the forefront again is because they always have. People who are four-generations in to fiat currency economies often scoff at the idea, but there’s something to it. Typically, people object to the metals’ “uselessness” (neither are actually useless from a practical standpoint) or ask what good it would be in a world of starvation and danger. Well, in the early stages, they are right, but as I said, that will change relatively quickly. Then, now different will these walled communities be from the city-states of 600BC or the fiefdoms of the Middle Ages? They all opted for gold, and every time gold goes away it comes back in a crisis (like when Zimbabwe’s currency collapsed in this century the people stopped working for paychecks of fiat currency and started panning for gold in the rivers each day to feed themselves).

The communities in TWD are getting close to the stage where they will need a currency. They’re trading with other stable communities, and it is now becoming evident how risky traveling roads with large stockpiles of goods for barter can be.

BrickVoid

It’s possible that an oil refining mini-industry could come out of recycling expired fuel, since most fuel degrades to raw materials that made it up in the first place. I figure it would work similarly to an oil distillation tower, only on a much smaller scale. 😀

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Rattraveller

If communal living doesn’t last very long then what did the Native Americans, Tribal Africans, Aboriginal Australians, Inuit of Alaska and Canada and the Aleutians live under for thousands of years?

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Ballinabricky

A lot of the “communal living” narrative was invented or overblown long after they were gone…and I suppose it depends on how you mean “communal living” in the first place.

Native Americans would have still owned their own weapons and tools and clothing and had their own private dwelling and whatnot. Many (but not all) tribes were migratory and so didn’t own land (but did control a territory they considered “theirs” and defended it against other tribes and, eventually, the Europeans). Some tribes built permanent or semi-permanent settlements. In Central and South America, they built permanent cities — no communal living there.

They might have shared food, but only because they hunted cooperatively. If someone traded his personal tool for some venison and then his village tried to claim the meat was communal, I’m sure there would have been problems.

There’s also a matter of culture. We’re talking about 21st century Westerners here, with a very strong sense of ownership. People don’t like to be told by a larger group (or self-appointed leader) that they have to give up some of their stuff for which they might have risked, paid a price, or to which they may have grown attached. Growing up in a culture that practiced communal living from time immemorial is a lot different than taking a 21st century suburbanite and dropping them into a group that tell them their property is now “communal” and expecting things to go smoothly.

If they feel threatened or pressured, they might go along with it for a bit, but rest assured, there will be a seething resentment that would likely lead to altercation, revolt, or murder if it becomes a matter of course.

I think this is something that TWD illustrates very well. Everybody out there is out to take your stuff, and people, reduced to so few resources, begin to really rely on and identify themselves by their possessions (a crossbow, a hat, a pocket watch, a sword, etc). Throw love triangles into the mix (Rick/Lori/Shane) and you’ve got a recipe for bloodshed.

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Steam Powered Spam

I think that a ZI (zombie invasion, what, im lazy? Ok? Yes I know writing all this out took twice as long as just saying zombie invasion. Which I have now said twice) …er, what was I talking about?

Oh! Right, that! Humor. One of your basic needs is recreation. Humor, entertainment. Its not as big as food and water but after you go three days with dodging the re animated corpses of your friends and nieghbors you are going to need something to unwind with.

It will be interesting to see how a ZI effects what people do for entertainment.

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Pi3rK

As for the question of the day, I’d say that coffee machine meetings at the office every morning will be a hard small thing to do again. You know conversations like “Did you watch last night’s game?” or “Will the doctor invite the new nurse on a date right after his divorce on this TV show?”

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pi3rk

Not as good as the 1st two season to be fair. But quite good. More action but the story suffers of a shorter “season”. A true fan should try it though.

Now, they already announced the nxt season is for this fall… And Clementine is back!!

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