Voluntary Simplicity as a Way to Build Freedom

“Brad” at WendyMcElroy.com talks about voluntary simplicity as a way of building freedom. Excerpts:

Are you tired of feeding the State your tax dollars? Tired of contributing to the War in Iraq, or the War on Drugs, or welfare, or earmarks, or stupid laws, or fat Congressional paychecks? I can tell you a simple and totally legal way to reduce the amount of tax you pay.

Earn, and spend, less money.

Having to earn more money than you really need enslaves you in two ways. First, your most precious and irreplaceable asset — your time — is diverted, not to achieve your goals, but to achieve someone else’s goals. (This may be the case either if you’re a “wage slave,” or if you’re self-employed.) Second, a huge slice of your earned income is taxed away from you, and goes to fuel the State.

So if you want more freedom in your life, start by asking: what things that you spend money on are essential to your happiness, or to achieve your personal goals; and what things are not? The process of reducing your life to the essentials has been called “voluntary simplicity.”

In Benjamin Hallowell’s Autobiography (), he tells of his refusal to pay militia exemption fines, and how he felt doubts about Quaker practice in this regard.

A little over a year after we commenced housekeeping in Alexandria, D.C., in , the captain of the militia of the district presented to me a bill of fifteen dollars for muster fines for the past year, five musters in the year, and a fine of three dollars for absence from each. I told the captain the discipline of the religious society to which I belonged required that its members should be in no way active in anything connected with military affairs, but suffer peaceably whatever penalty the law imposed. He said he would then have to distrain my property for the amount of the fine, and requested me to designate what goods I could best spare. I told him I could say nothing upon the subject, but left it all to him to do what the law required. He then levied on our parlor furniture, taking a large looking-glass, my portable writing-desk, brass andirons, shovel and tongs, and several other things; goods selling so low at such sales, which no respectable people attended, it took more than we could replace for fifty dollars to pay a fine of fifteen. But I cheerfully made the sacrifice to the Society, for the many privileges I enjoyed from it, although our parlor did look very much stripped, and I thought such a stripping every year, which was the prospect before me, would be a severe tax.

I have a testimony against military training as a preparation for war. But I have a high respect and regard for law. I am at heart a law-abiding citizen, never to be active in opposition to law, but ready and willing to comply with the law or suffer the penalty which it imposes for non-compliance.

As a member of civil society, I think it would be right for me to pay the penalty which the law imposes for non-compliance in this respect, believing the general effect would be far better than the present mode prescribed by Friends’ Discipline, of having the penalty collected by distraint. But estimating very highly the privileges my birth-right of membership in the Society of Friends has given me, and yet gives me, I will not pay such fines while the Discipline of the Society requires its members not to do so. Is this the right course? Do we not blame the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church for a similar thing — for placing the obligations of the citizen to a religious society above his obligations to his country?