Americans Scooping Up Doomsday Shelters – The Illogical “Recency Effect”

by Darwin on March 23, 2011

Now I'm Safe!!! And Silly....

You’ve gotta love Americans.  Leading up to Y2K, gun sales and bomb shelters were through the roof.  After 9/11 we were buying parachutes for jumping out of buildings.  When it was evident Obama would win the election, gun sales skyrocketed over fears the government would begin confiscating guns.  Californians have cleared the shelves of Iodine pills.  Now “doomsday shelter” sales are skyrocketing again in the wake of the Middle East uprisings and the Japan nuclear disaster as reported by CNN.  Call it a tepid recovery, but in the bomb shelter business, things couldn’t be better!  Every so often, we find a reason to rush out and buy either guns or bottled water or bomb shelters or duct tape.  This is the illogical and eternally frustrating recency effect at work.
Recency Effect – Illogical, Irrational, and Terribly Annoying

It annoys me to no end when people I know, or as reported by the news, act completely irrationally (and waste money) on stuff they don’t need solely because of a recent event.  No matter how remote the possibility of recurrence, when some exogenous event occurs, they stock up as if it’s about to happen in a neighborhood near them.  When there’s an airline crash, people are afraid to drive – yet they’ll drive around like idiots in automobiles, which statistically, are much more likely to kill them.

  • Here’s a hilariously paranoid website for people who can buy basically a doomsday timeshare (get yours now! $25,000 while supplies last!) .  The video cracks me up – nuclear blast detectors and all.


  • This latest Japan earthquake and tsunami 1-2 punch that put the reactors in jeopardy is so unlikely to occur here that I don’t even give it a second thought.  Some say, “well, this nuclear facility is in a seismic area”.  OK, but a contributing factor to the current situation in Japan is that a massive wave came and wiped away the backup generators that should have and would have been keeping the cooling towers running.  So, is the thinking that somewhere 50 miles inland we’re going to have a massive tsunami come through as well? Reactors in the US are built with so many redundant systems (and it’s the American experts Japan finally allowed in to help assist in the shutdown of the reactor that would be overseeing a crisis in the US) and protocols that the likelihood of a serious release near you in your lifetime is much lower than risks you don’t even contemplate that ARE real.


  • Then, there’s the hysteria about people buying gold.  I get that gold has been trending up and if you think the currency’s going to continue to be devalued then gold continues to run due to notion that you can’t print more gold like you can print more dollars.  But buying gold as a replacement currency in the event of a global cataclysm?  (Many people believe in this stuff).  Seriously?  In the event the world descends into chaos, guns and bullets are going to be a heck of a lot more useful than gold – and that assumes you’d even want to go on living (ever see “The Road”?).

So, Americans, and others I suppose, tend to freak out about the latest crisis until something new rolls around and then it’s time to freak out about something else irrationally.  All this hysteria results in an inefficient deployment of capital, personal savings, time and effort.

What Do You Think? Have You Started Building Your Shelter Yet?

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1 JohnnyH March 24, 2011 at 9:41 am

I agree with everything in the article, except the part about gold… Life savings into gold? No! Although I would be more comfortable with that then everything in the bank in US dollars… But some gold holdings is clearly a good diversification.

Gold could only become worthless over wide areas and significant duration in a complete, worldwide financial, commercial, political, social and cultural collapse… The world would have to go dark without hope of seeing recovery in generations…

By thinking that is possible the anti-gold crowd actually becomes more illogical doomer than the pro-gold crowd!

2 Joe Schmoe March 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

Even worse is the reaction in Europe. They sold out of Geiger counters. Plenty of people with the cigarette in one hand and the Geiger counter in the other. Hypocrits of all nations unite!

3 Evan March 24, 2011 at 10:48 am

I think it is natural for intelligent animals to react to stimuli regardless of how unlikely it is to occur again. Think of a dog scared of an object because it accidentally got hit by the item once.

I never understood the gold argument either. If shit hits the fan who is taking your gold coins for food? That being said, it sort of disproves your other statements because if shit hits the fan (however unlikely) at least the the guns (if Big O wanted to take them away) would have some sort of value as would the bomb shelter.

The timeshare video is hysterical

4 Jason March 27, 2011 at 6:36 pm

LOLOLOL funny video

5 Bellisaurius March 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Black Swan events by their very nature are unpredictable. Having a week or two of food and water with a bug out bag isn’t a bad idea, which makes the insanity aspect kind of a matter of degree, as opposed to kind when determining the point where a person is being kooky; although I’d say it starts to occur at the point when the loss of the current income stream for things that will definitely occur, ie groceries, retirement savings, and such.

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