Wendy McElroy on How Frugality and Activism Mesh

Wendy McElroy has been doing a bang-up job of documenting her frugal and well-constructed life over at WendyMcElroy.com.

Recently, she took some time to discuss how her frugality meshes with her activism. Excerpts:

Yet another reason I advocate “alternative” means of financing your life — e.g. barter, self-sufficiency, the gray-market, agorism, frugality, freecycling and other freebie networks etc. — is that these areas of endeavor still function without being taxed to death. You can get the full value of your labor if you barter it; you can acquire a “new” computer for free if you are willing to offer usable goods from your own basement or attic on the lists where such goods are exchanged. You can sell simply for what people are willing to pay if you do so privately or carefully in certain venues. As it stands now, the State (at every level) is literally willing to tax the food off your tables and the clothes off your children’s backs.

This will only get worse in . Much, much worse. Plan and act right now to protect the quality of life for yourself and your family. The quality of your life is not the amount of money you make. It is the level of comfort (the food, the shelter, etc.) you can sustain and that level can come largely from “alternative financing” rather than from an official pay stub. Indeed, as long as you sustain a reasonable comfort level — what used to be called “middle/working class” — the lower your official wage the better because, then, your taxes will also be lower.

This is not merely a frugal measure. It is a line drawn in the sand by which I say “No!” to the State. I am mad as hell at having to support with my own life — which is what my time/labor constitute — the thieves, hypocrites and parasites who are politicians and the others who slurp from the public trough. No. No. No.

A sort of parallel to this argument comes from Charles Hugh Smith at OfTwoMinds. He’s been spinning some pretty apocalyptic projections of the current economic catastrophe over there, and, though he comes from a very different political perspective from that of McElroy, the two converge in many ways:

The solution to our present problems is triage: understand the context of the problems, prioritize what can be saved, live within our means and strip away all the perverse incentives, borrowing and financial legerdemain which currently dominate our economy, government and society.

Only a nation convinced of its invulnerability could be so deluded as to spend its waning days of wealth arguing about how the borrowed trillions should be divided, as if they were the spoils of conquest rather than the outright theft of our children’s future.

Some of his recommendations:

  • Learn a side-skill/business which either creates surplus food or energy or tradable goods. Grow some food, however small in quantity, if you can; it’s not just saving money, it’s about appreciating where real food comes from and what it tastes like. Learn to cook real food.
  • Build networks based on reciprocity, generosity and mutual aid. Since our government cannot provide all that’s been promised (based on a much higher worker-to-retiree ratio), then we have to build alternative support networks of the traditional types: family ties, church, neighborhood, craft guilds, etc.

His bottom line: “Food is wealth, health is wealth, energy is wealth; all else is illusion.”