How does one make money in a failing economy? *UPDATED*

Mr. Bookworm had an interesting question.  He noted that it looks as if several states are going to default on their bonds, along with the possibility that these same states will file for bankruptcy.  He wondered if, armed with knowledge of these imminent economic collapses, it was possible to make money in the market.  As I said, that’s a good question.  I know that, no matter the economic disaster, one always reads about someone who walks away counting the piles of cash in his hands.

Do any of you have any idea how to turn the failing stock/bond markets to ones advantage?

Likewise, the real estate market is still in collapsed mode.  In theory, that means there are bargains to be had.  However, bargains work only if you’re reasonably confident that you’re buying in a market that will, sooner, rather than later, rebound.  How do you pick the next hot market?  A few years ago, my sister and her husband thought they’d found the next “hot market.”  Instead, when the real estate market collapsed, they found themselves in one of the most foreclosed upon market in the U.S.  They were completely unable to unload their real estate investments, and ended up handing them back to the banks.

Those are the two examples that came to my mind but, generally speaking, is there a way to use money to make money right now, or is the sinking economic tide bringing down all boats?

UPDATE:  This charming, interesting post perfectly articulates the confusion that I see when I try to figure out how people are supposed to make money (or not lose money) now.  (Although I’m not going to rush out and buy gold and silver.  I tried that last year, only to have Mr. Bookworm tell me that this was a right wing wacko investment idea.)