There’s No Such Thing As “Without Rule of Law” – WROL vs. DROL

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Co-Author of SHTF Survival Bootcamp

I want to address one specific point. This is a very general application across the preppersphere. But it’s also become a little bit time-sensitive in certain countries just now, so it’s a lesson well worth visiting. And for those that have watched my videos or read the articles or seen me quoted previously, one of my kind of most quoted phrases is “Words have meaning and meaning is important.” And I stand by that.

Selco and I constantly, in lectures or courses, preface everything with definitions and meanings and understanding so everybody’s on the same page. What I want to do here is address one specific phrase and then tweak it. Within the prepper-sphere, and wider world, we have this concept of W R O L

  • ( WROL) Which stands for: Without Rule of Law. This has been written about extensively and the principle is: as normal societal function slows down, or stops, the law is no longer applied. It becomes a Wild West in the classic connotation of it.

In our philosophy, Selco and I believe that WROL categorically does not exist. However, what we do work with is D R O L (DROL) Doesn’t sound like much difference, but it’s critical because of a slight perception and shift change in mindsets.

  • DROL is Different Rule of Law. No matter what the catastrophe is or how bad it gets, there’s always going to be a “law” of some sort. In fact, we could actually stop at the word rule: without rule or different rules. There are always going to be rules.

We can drop the word “law” because people get really hung up on the specificity of its meaning. As in these are democratically elected, government-monitored states that are sort of enforced. Let’s just look at rules instead of laws to understand what I mean.


Nature abhors a vacuum.

Now, the simple fact is, we all know that nature abhors a vacuum. So as one system comes down or pauses or rests, another will immediately move to fill that void. And that’s what we have with rules. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on a national or state level. This can be a very singular or on a small unit level: towns, cities, or even smaller than that, like neighborhoods, parts of cities, parts of towns.

And this isn’t theoretical. This is evidenced globally through the history of humanity and definitely within the modern era that this state exists. Quite simply, here’s one of the first things to understand: there has to be an infrastructure for new rules to be introduced and most importantly, enforced.

Rules are nothing without enforcement. The only reason any of us follow any rules is because of the threat of enforcement if we break them. The vehemence, the detail, and the pain of that enforcement govern our individual application of those rules within our own individual lives.

The infrastructure already exists. There are those who would love to implement new rules. The only thing is looking at their capability to enforce those rules. This is where it gets interesting. We can’t then say, “It doesn’t matter whether mob rule, or gang rule, or criminal rule, or warlord rule.” No, it matters very much whose rules you’re following, because of the vehemency and level of enforcement.

That is the small shift and key mindset difference, that so important. WROL, the Wild West, is basically alleging: Rules can be broken with no consequences. That’s the classic, “I’ll drive my car through an illegal vehicle checkpoint, potentially guns blazing because it doesn’t matter because nobody can stop me.”

Now Without Rule Of Law, all of that will be true. In DROL, the enforcement or the penalization of that action will vary but there will be consequences. So quite simply in Different Rule Of Law, there are always going to be consequences. Always. And those consequences may be way more severe than when we had our current rule of law.

It’s not there are no consequences. It’s more like, this may have previously got me a fine or a warning, or day in court. But now, that same action will going to get me hunted, tracked, and killed. Or worse still, made a public example of. These are the other factors to consider. Justice throughout the Western world, for all its flaws, for all its foibles, for all its humanity, tries to be as evenly applied across the populace as possible. (I’m not going to get into politics of different enforcement for different segments of society. Let’s keep it at that kind of higher-level perception.)

In DROL, there is no even application of the rules, not even a pretense of it. Whoever is making the rules and disseminating down to the enforcement capabilities speaks to how those rules are going to be enforced and how evenly and how equally. So, you might run a checkpoint, but because of your skillset or your stature in the community or your finances, you might get away with it. You might be able to pay them off. Somebody else may literally be executed. They may be executed on the spot.

The infrastructures are already in place.

It can be because all of the infrastructures are there already and they have an existing symbiosis with the structures in governance and enforcement. That is a given. Every gang and criminal enterprise has connections, cooperation, and collaborations with the people policing them. Because that’s how the dark system works.

If you don’t believe me, get online and do some research. Don’t deny that it exists because it does. In every country around the world. Quite simply, the poorer, the more third-world the country, the more corrupt the system.

And the more corrupt the system, the more that integration is already there.

Let’s look at defunding the police, for example.

Let’s take one initiative such as defunding the police, where people feel significant changes are going to be made to law enforcement. It will take time for those changes to be made. That time will be significant, and that will be allowed and not interfered with. Peace will be maintained while this transition happens.

But then things will change.

Think back to our example of running a checkpoint.

If you’re in a place with a soft police policy or a pullback of police in the region for a temporary reset. But then another infrastructure comes in. Let’s say it’s a criminal gang. Don’t think for a second that if they want to run down a license plate and get that information, that they haven’t got someone in the DMV. Or the local police, or someone with access to the intelligence infrastructure, that can get information for them.

That’s it. They’ve got your address. They know you ran the checkpoint, you did the damage, you hurt one of their guys. The enforcement hierarchy said, “If any of you, as our enforcers get hurt, we will avenge your injury or your death.” That’s then going to roll downhill and it’s going to get visited on you, in whatever way they have deemed necessary.

There will never be a WROL scenario.

Instead of thinking: “Woo-hoo! I am in the preppersphere. Without RULE Of Law, we can do whatever we want!”

I would be exceptionally more cautious than normal times in that situation with regard to the potential of breaking the rules without consequences.

And here’s the other thing: you’re going to have to learn what the rules are. And you’re going to have to learn fast. (Selco talks about the new rules in this article.) These might not be well communicated to you. You might be learning on the spot. You could find yourself with people you don’t recognize to have an authority that you don’t acknowledge, telling you now, at the barrel of a gun or similar, “This is how we do things around here now.”

And a glimpse of that was showing in the CHOP over there in Seattle. Basically, the regular infrastructure (the police) pulled back from the 8-block radius, and people started to self-regulate, autonomously in the beginning and then not autonomously afterward. Someone stepped in and made new rules and enforced them. There are some good examples within that situation but be aware that was a very mild version.

As the situation deteriorates not only in the US, but also in other countries, the versions are going to become way more hardcore. You will see new rules and new enforcement.

And be advised, it won’t be pretty.

About Toby

Toby has an extensive background in the military, emergency services, risk management, and business continuity, combined with applied wilderness and urban survival skills. He discusses personal safety, security, and the crossover of military skills to the average civilian.

Toby Cowern

Toby Cowern

Toby Cowern has an extensive background in the military, emergency services, risk management, and business continuity, combined with applied wilderness and urban survival skills. He discusses personal safety, security, and the crossover of military skills to the average civilian.

Leave a Reply

  • Great article, very practical perspective. I feel you are spot on in that when one set of laws are no longer acknowledged, another set (written or unwritten) will fall into place whether you recognize them or not. You will be subject to the consequences one way or the other.

  • A persons opinion is not rule or law but that could easily be the prevailing “thing”
    call it opinion, law, rules.. guidelines in an area, town or region.
    Yes, as long as people are present something will “control” to some degree.

  • The Author has a point, but misses the boat.
    “,,,Without RULE Of Law, we can do whatever we want!”, is correct. You can never just do what ever you want, as their MAY be consequences.
    However even in our ROL society, there are hundreds of thousands of “cold cases” and unsolved murders. Let alone those that are never reported. So consequences do not always exist even in a ROL society.
    Secondly, the Wild west was never really that wild. Most towns had a ROL. But as above, many ” crimes” went unsolved and thus unpunished.

    Once SHTF, there will come of time when there will be no ROL. No matter how short lived it may be.

    As he cited in the Portland riots as an example,( as in all riots) there is a time when there is no rule of law ( which is what a riot is). That is the mistake he makes and that others make, that is the duration of WROL, not that it will not exist. After any riot, often society will resets itself, creating some kind of ROL. Even if it becomes a system of Vigilante Justice.

    Now the only point he makes that is correct, is that “in Time”, society will always reassert itself in one form or another. Whether that control is based on a dictator, a vigilante mob or a War Lord or some thing else, that will vary.
    So WROL may exist for only a few hours or it might be months long. It will in most areas, quickly end. Being replaced with a ROL system, but the rules may not be the same as before.

    It is that brief period, when we are basically WROL that we all will have to deal with, that we must prep for no matter how short lived it will be.

    • No ROL in the riots? No the law still existed it was just ignored and in these cases actually orchestrated which we will get to later. They thought there was none but those involved are slowly disappearing and being taken into custody. Just like the “leader of chaz/chop who was last seen bawling in full tears on camera like the child he is. That’s why we can’t just shoot the idiots from our porch and be rid of the issue.
      If there is an EMP tonight and you shoot the neighbor you hate tomorrow in cold blood because you think there is no rule of law you will probably be disappointed later when you are arrested as things normalize or you are killed by another family member in a revenge killing as the replacement rule of law. The law still exists. Your thinking was flawed.
      The enforcement of law doesn’t always happen quickly but that does not mean the rule of law isn’t there.
      Ask Noreiga, El Chapo, Hussein, OBL or Milošević what happens when you think ROL doesn’t apply and you think you are the law or are above the law .

  • Thanks, Toby- great article. Yes, different rules are right. I’ve talked with LEOs and read some of the retired officer blogs. In our neck of the woods, the drug cartels would expand their authority and the kind of justice they practice is ruthless. The news doesn’t often cover routine hits on those that run afoul of the cartels, so it’s hard to understand unless you talk to someone in law enforcement.

    Another thing to consider is what happens when the homeless population expands quickly. My husband helps with a group that feeds the homeless each week in a park. Some folks have fallen on hard times (this group will grow in this pandemic economy), others are addicted to drugs or alcohol (they look you in the eye and lie- they are also beholden to some level in the cartel), and others are mentally ill, off their meds, and won’t look you in the eye. Some have multiple issues. They are all hungry and some have families to feed. Then what? What would you do if you had a family to feed and no means to accomplish that?

  • Even in war torn, poverty stricken Afghanistan, they have DROL.
    Each area was controlled not by the Afghan government, but what we called Local Power Brokers aka warlords. There was the Aghan National Police, and the Afghan National Army and they sometimes did have a degree of control over an area . . . usually because the members were also relatives of the warlords.
    There were differing tribes in a given region, but each controlled their areas and there they made the laws. The tribe could be lead by a single elder or council of elders. They had the full backing of the tribe. Cross them or break tribal law and could be something as simple as a strict talking, to monetary payment, to exile or even death.
    As Toby pointed out, this infrastructure was already in place and has been for generations.
    For the most part, we have our own shared common values which are the basis of law.
    Unfortunately, there are those out there who dont have much regard for some laws.
    How does that play out in the SHTF situation, well, to quote Edmund Burke,
    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    To a degree, DROL can be established now, with community organizations, neighborhood watch, even attending local town meetings. Even talking with friends and neighbors about things going on in some cities. Some yahoo decides he is going to try to take my neighbors stuff by force might be in for a surprise when the rest of us neighbors show up in force from behind.

  • It might also be a good idea to keep in mind that whoever is enforcing the new rules, whatever they are, haven’t had all the sensitivity training and all that kind of thing – they won’t be all that used to enforcing rules and may be incredibly unpredictable. Not saying they will be any better than the cops, or worse, depending on the region, but they will be different so it’s even more important to stay on your toes.

  • DROL makes sense to me as the “pale of law” or the boundaries of law. Hitler did everything within the pale of law. He maneuvered the German people to change their laws. So much national and personal pride got in the way that they didn’t comprehend how it changed what he was able to do.

    We cannot assume ROL as we once knew it any more. (ROLAWOKI) Just watching our professional Lawmakers should be enough to understand. We’ve been had and we will continue to be had.

    These are dangerous times when it comes to law. We can survive if we are able to bring back the old notion of individuals being self-governing. We have the leaders we deserve. Unfortunately, they seemed to be governed by something else other than our present Constitution.

    • We DO NOT have the leaders we deserve. I didn’t vote for ANY of the fruits and commies running the People’s Republic in which I’m domiciled. 49% of our state’s population lives on some form of welfare, and people on welfare vote Democrat.

  • I liked the article Toby, and concur, as seen here if the police step back or a lax in enforcing the laws . A criminal element already working in the area is quick to step up or step out from the cover they have been working under for decades . They grow bolder and more ruthless than they have already been. For me, this scares the crap out of me. If you’ve crossed their path in normal times , no way you want to come across them once they are in their element. No matter how fit, well trained , prepped you are. They play dirty and constantly change their rules to support their positions of power. So this will never be something I’d look forward to.

  • So, we can agree that antifa and blm rioters are not anarchists. Rather, an extension of the leftwing..brownshirts, effectively.

  • Your lack of attention to detail is appalling! Rule of law is communism. Afghanistan has a U.S. installed rule of law government. There is no – we the people component.
    What you meant to say was- Rule of CONSTITUTIONAL Law. Of the people, by the people, for the people! Own the language! Do not use ANY communist democrat, or fake news buzz phrases- example- rule of law.

  • I had a “prepper” tell me he wouldn’t have any problem pulling a trigger on someone who had what he wanted/needed to “feed his kids”. I immediately thought he might even get away with it…. once. Also got a tick mark on the do not trust list. As his comment was unprovoked, and defended it when told this was unjust, I imagine he was speaking from the heart.

    Until it takes place you don’t really know how people are going to respond in such circumstances. Beware who you think your friends are.

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