Mother Jones' Timothy Murphy spent time with "preppers," a euphemism for the category of folk that believe the end of civilization is near.
Humans have been preparing for the worst for millennia, but modern Americans have turned it into an art form. At the dawn of the Atomic Age, suburbanites scrambled to build backyard shelters and the government stockpiled food in anticipation of the day after. The spiraling inflation of the 1970s brought with it a spike in gold sales and backwoods land purchases. During the Clinton years, camo-clad survivalists prepared for the black-helicopter invasion, and Y2K briefly made prepperism mainstream. But perhaps the best salesman for the notion that we're on the verge of financial, technological, and political collapse has been the current occupant of the Oval Office. Stevens says of the president, "He is the leading promoter of this without even knowing it."
I'm a big fan of prepper literature, be it TV shows like Discovery's "Doomsday Preppers" or the deep stuff found on anonymous message boards. The existence of people so frightened by the pending collapse of civilization is fascinating on its own - adding the profit potential from exploiting such fears makes it even better. So remember, investors, buy guns, gold, and freeze-dried food.