Tag Archives: libertarian

freegans

What Are Freegans? Bums With Philosophy.

By Chris Warren.

As someone who likes to stay informed with off the news cycle trends, I had been somewhat familiar with the freegan “movement” but I didn’t realize it had taken root like a cult religion. I’m neither converted nor impressed nor fooled. Freegans are just bums with philosophy.

Freeganism is a lifestyle, economic system, political belief, protest movement…whatever you care to call it, plausibly all of the above. Freegans believe that participation in a traditional capitalist economy (ie, working a legitimate job and paying your own way) makes one complicit in causing the problems that go with such a system: Pollution, sweatshop labor, wasting of resources, income inequality, etc.

In what can be presumed as remedy to these problems, freegans participate in the economy to the smallest extent possible. This means buying little or nothing, not holding a steady job, and not owning homes or anything of significant value. Freegans often barter or trade with each other for things they need and will even “dumpster dive” for thrown away food and other items. Almost nothing they own, including the food they eat, was bought new or paid for in cash.

At first glance it seems almost idyllic: A tribe of counterculture freegans, shunning materialism, fending for themselves, and taking only what others rejected. It sounds so innocent, even noble. It’s not.

The first and most obvious fallacy freegans cling to is their disdain for overconsumption while at the same time being direct beneficiaries of it. All the free stuff they pull out of dumpsters would not be there if everyone followed freegan principles, or at least there would be a lot less free stuff to go around. It’s lost on me how someone whose lifestyle depends on society’s waste can criticize society for being wasteful, but the freegans are willing to give it a shot.

One argument states that, while freegans don’t contribute much to society, they don’t take much out of it, either. Or at least that’s what they want everyone to think. One of the tenets of freeganism is that it is ok to live in unoccupied or unused buildings. To them, squatting is acceptable because no one is using the place. In some freegan circles, they actually believe they are doing the property owners a favor by squatting in vacant buildings under the guise of “taking care of the place”. That’s quite a stretch to justify trespassing and using private property without compensation.

Twenty First Summer is a libertarian blog, and as such, I strongly favor giving as little money to the government as possible. But the other half of that equation is not to take any more from the government than you pay for. Freegans by definition embrace the former and reject the latter. Their system cannot work unless it’s a one-way street.

Like their lazy slob cousins over at the Occupy movement, freegans have plenty to say about what they are owed but not a lot about what they owe in return. Freeganism is really nothing more than trying to give virtue to being an unmotivated slacker. As we move closer to a culture of entitlement where everyone wants something without any personal sacrifice, is it unreasonable to think freeganism will move from the fringe into mainstream accepted behavior?

The answer is no. Only the freegans themselves think that all the idealistic youngsters eager to solve the world’s problems are going to give up their iPads and resort-like college dorms to live in abandoned buildings and eat out of the dumpster behind Burger King. Those of us with real jobs who pay our own way can be assured that the freegans will remain a fringe group. A lazy unemployed bum who spouts philosophy is still a lazy unemployed  bum.

buffet

The Food Buffet Serves Up What Is Wrong In America.

By: Chris Warren.

Regular readers know that Twenty First Summer is a libertarian, heavily pro-American platform. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the USA has any problems, but I typically keep my criticisms about the United States out of this blog. This time I just can’t let it slide. I’ve concluded that the food buffet of all places is a microcosm of what is wrong in the United States, and it embarrasses me not only as an American, but also as someone who believes in basic human decency.

As we entered the buffet, the wealth of food stretched before us gave us that “oh, wow!” breathless moment. This was not like the pre made frozen-then-reheated vats of soulless generic grub found on steam tables at inexpensive chain establishments and truck stops. This was an upscale experience of fresh seafood, cooked to order steaks, fresh soups, and beautifully made desserts from an in-house pastry chef. We were going high class that night.

The problem with this otherwise elegant buffet became immediately apparent. It wasn’t the food or the service. It was the other customers. We sat and politely ate our modest portions like civilized human beings while most, not all, but most, of the other buffet patrons proceeded to act like gluttonous slobs.

Buffet diners, many with a plate in each hand, lined up at the seafood station and piled on enough fish to nourish a pregnant sea lion for a week. Others were sitting at tables with three or four plates of mounded food in front of them. Another table had two large stacks of dirty dishes waiting to be carried away. The unfortunate buffet wait staff literally could not clear the table as fast as those two overstuffed pigs shoveled food in their mouths. By the way, I did not see anyone besides us leave a tip.

So what does a food buffet have to do with patriotism and being critical of Americans? Quite a bit. For beginners, the friend I was with is not originally from the United States. Even though he is a now a US citizen and fully acclimated into American culture, I was still embarrassed for him to see the spectacle. The frenzy of overindulgence and hedonism was unsettling. This is not the United States I want others to see.

The buffet customers, who are my fellow Americans, completely disgusted me. I’m confident that these are the same types who travel to other countries, act like they do here, and then wonder why Americans are resented. The pathos of the buffet slobs carries over to the attitudes of society in general:

  • People will take advantage of the system and grab up everything they can, even if it’s more than they need, or something they don’t need at all. They believe one of the goals of going to a buffet is to eat (or waste) more food than you paid for. They apply this ethic to every facet of their lives
  • There is no concern for those perceived as being of a lower social standing (in this case, wait staff). Servants’ needs and feelings are not relevant to those they serve.
  • Related to the last point, people will think that because they are paying for something (and even if they are not), they have the right to act superior and create gratuitous burdens on others. They believe their status as a client or customer absolves them of nearly any sociopathic behavior.
  • The attitude of entitlement is not more prevalent in any particular demographic. It occurs across all income, gender, and racial/ethnic groups.

How the citizens of a nation treat each other and humble themselves before the bounty they have been blessed with says something about that nation’s collective values, and the way I see it, the food buffet is a merely a symptom of the disrespect and lack of gratitude that exists everywhere.  For a guy who thinks the United States is the greatest place that has ever been or will be, it’s a difficult admission for me to make. But blind devotion is a false emotion; this one went far beyond mere table manners and must be called out for what it is. We The People can’t become better as a country if we think we are already superior as individuals.

solar-panels-625x418

When Energy Is Stolen, There Are No Victims.

By: Chris Warren

For over a generation green energy has been the exclusive domain of the liberal left. The reasons why could run thousands of pages, but the oversimplified explanation is that clean energy is not economically viable and suitable only in niche applications. It is not cash flow positive nor does it have mainstream practicality, and therefore depends on government subsidies and complex protective legislation. Add that to the liberal foundational doctrine that feelings matter more than actually getting something done, and clean energy becomes a natural fit for them.

That was then and this is now. Renewable energy, particularly solar, is on the cusp of becoming technically and financially competitive with traditional fuels. The left hasn’t noticed –yet– that free market libertarian ideas are pushing it over the line (note: liberal and libertarian are not the same thing). How long this ignorant bliss will continue is uncertain, and I’m not sure it matters. What is certain is that just a year or two ago, the idea of two groups who so sorely disagree on everything else setting it all aside and joining forces to make solar energy go primetime would have been found only in a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch.

A nascent movement is gaining traction down in Florida where liberals and conservatives are in an unlikely collusion to pass legislation that would allow any private citizen to install solar panels on their home or business and sell the electricity for profit on the open market. In essence, they would become a miniature power company. As the law is right now, only state registered commercial utilities can sell juice. The new rules, if passed, would let anyone in on the action.

It is encouraging to see solar energy get the boost it so rightfully deserves, and let it be noted that all of this is unfolding without government subsidies, handouts, or special legislative favors. The plan does not officially break up the power company monopoly, but is it really a monopoly if anyone can do it? To be sure, Florida’s proposal is no magic answer. There are a lot of holes in the plan, and we are long away from completely powering our society with sunbeams and happy thoughts. Still, there is almost nothing negative about this initiative.

Conservatives should further their cause by spreading the Florida example elsewhere. Finding a reason not to do something is easy. It takes thought and effort to confront problems and find a path through them. Since the beginning of the clean energy movement, the right touted a long list of reasons why green energy would not work for mainstream use, and to be fair, for most of that time they had a valid point. Now there is a foot in the door that addresses many of these concerns. Here is the conservatives’ big chance to show everyone that free market solutions really do work.

Regardless of how the Florida experiment plays out (it has not even been passed into law yet), liberals are faced with no course to steer around the reality that decades of government largesse and mandates has failed to make solar a legitimate option. And I’m certain I’m not the only free market supporter who is taking some quiet pleasure seeing progressives forced into a position where, in order to achieve their long time goal of widespread renewable energy, they will have to admit that their other long time goal of solving the renewable energy “problem” with more government spending and regulation is a total failure.

The way I read this, two causes liberals covet (green energy and big government) have been turned against each other. Well played, tea party! Well played! Not only are conservatives stealing a worthwhile but horribly mismanaged liberal issue and making it work with capitalist policy, the liberals are cheerfully going along as if they were helping  load their own stuff into a burglar’s getaway car. In this case the thief is doing the victim, and everyone else, a huge favor.

Crashing The Liberal Elite Pity Party.

By: Chris Warren.

All government plans large or small are seldom the original work of the congressmen and senators who vote on them. An army of consultants and researchers are brought in and paid very well to help shape a concept into actual written policies and laws. The process can take years and the end result is usually at least hundreds of not thousands of pages long.

Not long ago economist Johnathan Gruber was just another healthcare policy nerd almost completely unknown outside of Washington DC. Guys like him very seldom become public celebrities. Gruber is the rare exception. Behind what he said when he thought no one was paying attention (and kicked him straight into the headlines) is a bigger idea that has nothing to do with his area of professional expertise.

Having been paid millions in consulting fees to help the federal government and numerous states implement the historic healthcare law that he was a point man on, one would think that Gruber above anyone would believe in his own creation and be proud to explain the benefits of the law on its own merits and how it’s going to help every American.

What actually happened needs little explanation because it was all carefully documented in a series of videos starring Gruber himself speaking at various conferences and meetings. The theme of the speeches is that Gruber admits the legislation was purposely rigged to confuse and mislead and hide the fact that most of us were going to get screwed by this law. In his own words, American voters are “stupid”. He piously goes on to declare that the deception was worth it for the greater good of getting the law passed.

And therein lies the lesson. Gruber has validated what so many Americans already know: Government, particularly the liberal Democrat kind, believe they are intellectually and morally superior and know what’s best for everyone. They toil for the ungrateful heathens. Their dishonesty is warranted because we of the ignorant masses are not complex enough to process or appreciate the gift of government oversight. There is no problem that cannot be solved with tax dollars and legislation. It is the very reason the Democratic Party exists.

Republicans have for their part largely avoided the big government label. The reasons why should not make them feel proud. Everything is relative in politics. Republicans are indeed a big government party; Democrats are a bigger government party. It’s a completely fair observation that Republicans have their own brand of overbearing “nanny state” attitudes stamped into their positions, it’s just that the Democrats have gone out of their way to make it a deliberate part of their platform. Or more cynically, the Republicans are better at hiding it.

It’s been floating around in the media that the current Congress (2013-2014 session) is the “least productive” in history based on the number of laws passed. Only a big government stooge would think passing laws just for the sake of saying you did something counts as “productivity.” I’m taking it in the other direction: The less they get done the better. As the 2014 midterm elections have proven, Americans are in no mood for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid blessing us with more of their great ideas. My definition of productivity is the liberal elite having the least possible number of opportunities to screw with my life.

In the midst of beating up the political parties, it’s worth noting that American voters are themselves complicit in the bullshit. Congress’ approval rating is lower than a sewer rat, yet somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of incumbents managed to get reelected in the 2014 midterms, and many of them did it without even a serious challenge in the primaries last spring. Where is the incentive for congress to change? Why should they be expected to bust their ass to do a good job if there is no penalty for screwing off? At some point voters forfeit the right to whine about elected officials. I’m not sure where that point is, but I bet we’re real close to it.

Polls show that even though Americans disapprove of congress by enormous margins, they tend to like their individual representative. That may explain why they keep getting reelected. Congressional reps are like toddlers who are cute and adorable until they are placed in a group with other toddlers. Then they turn into wretched evil quarreling beasts. It’s sad that the analogy fits so well.

So we are trapped with two major political parties, one only marginally better than the other but both nonetheless think they can run our lives better than we can ourselves. Gruber’s loose-lipped remarks, disrespectful as they may be, are unusual only in that he had the arrogance to utter them in front of a camera and a microphone and think he fooled everyone. His confidence that he was righteous in doing so is standard progressivist behavior, although they usually pull it off with a little more finesse. According to liberal doctrine, Gruber’s offense was not his disdain for ordinary Americans, it was his exposing the calculated deceit.

Let Go Of Gays And Guns.

By: Chris Warren.

National mid term elections are less than ninety days away, and along with them thousands of local offices and issues will also be on the ballot. Polls claim most Americans are in the middle with only a small vocal minority on each fringe, but I’m not seeing it. The definition of an independent/moderate in American politics seems to be anyone who hates both sides equally. Does that count?

Each side is trying to come up with a scheme that picks off votes from the middle, assuming there actually are any. There might be some persuadable citizens on local issues, but for the national elections, there’s very few votes to harvest. To clarify for my readers outside the United States: Americans don’t vote for the best candidate. We identify the candidate we dislike the most and vote for whoever he or she is running against, even if under any other circumstances we would not hire that person to run a popcorn stand. Crazy Americans!

My disrespect for big government liberalism should not be interpreted as approval for what the Republicans are up to. The best thing I can say about Republicans is that they are not nearly as incompetent as Democrats, but that’s not a compliment; it’s more like congratulating the valedictorian from the worst school in the country.

Keeping in mind the mission of Twenty First Summer as the “thoughtful, positive, relevant” blog, I’m not going to spend the next several hundred words lighting up in a whiney screed about how the country is going to hell, even if it actually is (cough-Obama-cough). There is an old trope in American politics that says a policy neither side likes is probably the best. That is exactly the path I intend on taking here.

I’m not a political scientist. I’m not a lobbyist, consultant, or analyst. I’ve never held public office nor worked for a candidate, or even slapped a campaign sticker on my truck. I have come up with two plans, one for liberals and one for conservatives. Whichever group most effectively embraces their respective plan will win over voters who would normally not even consider supporting them, and more importantly, make them loyal backers for life:

Conservatives should abandon their opposition to gay marriage.
There are a lot of gays who like much of what conservatism offers, especially regarding economic and tax issues. As a demographic, they have higher incomes and pay more into the system than they receive from it. They’re getting pretty sick and tired of being the cash machine for the schools, lazy public employee unions, and every feel good handout program on the liberal wish list. Many states and municipalities have already established their own recognition of same-sex marriage, so in these places making it the law of the land would not be a culture shock. Only in a weird, ironic world of bizarro do so-called small government conservatives use the kludge of big government to deny others that which hurts no one.

As right wing hero Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” He was speaking in context of religion but the idea can and does apply to same sex marriage. Here is my challenge to conservatives: How does your gay neighbor getting married “injure” you and “pick your pocket or break your leg” in a way that traditional marriage does not?

Conservatives will often cite morality as a reason they are against gay marriage. The problem with this angle is that morality is about one’s own personal beliefs and not about pushing them on others. The Jeffersonian standard still applies. Parents who don’t want their kids exposed to the gay lifestyle can explain it the same way they would any other objectionable behavior. The world is a big huge place. Not everyone is like you.

If the Republicans change their platform to support gay marriage, or at least stop fighting against it, I am certain they will win more elections. There are a lot of gays who really, really want to vote Republican, but the same sex marriage issue is a deal breaker.

Liberals should give up on gun control.
There is something inherently flawed about a position that punishes honest citizens who didn’t do anything wrong while violent criminals go about their business. That is the absurd corner liberals have painted themselves into by joining the cult of gun control. Like a gambler who thinks if he rolls the dice just one more time Lady Luck will deliver a jackpot, Democrats can’t leave the table out of superstition that the next one will be a big win.

After twenty-plus years of beating this topic to death and a “grassroots movement” funded almost exclusively by a single neurotic billionaire sugar daddy, liberals today have less gun control than what they started with: Conceal carry is allowed in all fifty states and interest is growing, especially among women and minorities. Many firearms training classes have weeks-long wait lists. Even well known leftist cheerleaders have conceded that the gun rights movement has enjoyed a surplus of legislation.

Liberals will commonly cite polls that indicate Americans support gun control and use the data as a rationale for more restrictions. Here’s where their conclusion goes wrong: Because someone has an opinion on an issue it does not automatically follow that they care enough to vote or actively fight for the issue. I bet I could take a poll and “prove” that  95% of adult Americans are against letting five year olds eat cake and ice cream for breakfast everyday. But how many of those adults are willing to call or write their congressman and demand that there be a law about it, or make it a voting point? And so it goes with gun control.

For their part, gun rights activists absolutely will turn out in large numbers to call, write, protest, and vote. There have been high-profile elections to prove it, and the pro-gun people have shown over and over how serious they are about taking it far beyond responding to a poll question.

So, a reality check for liberals: What are you trying to prove with your recalcitrance? Your own data shows support for gun control is a mile wide but an inch deep and the issue is loser for you over the long haul. If you stop trying to marginalize law-abiding gun owners, a big pile of them will even vote for you!

Both Republican and Democrat heads may explode to find out that the Pink Pistols is a little-known but very headstrong group of gay, gun rights supporters who are just dying to throw their vote behind someone. And oh, by the way, they have a lot of friends and family too. The first political party to cast off their ridiculous devotion to a cause they can never, ever win will gain a huge, lasting advantage.

Those who are both pleased and pissed off with my propositions are the exact people I hope to reach. I am an unapologetic Libertarian, gun nut, and sympathetic to gays. It will be a great moment when I can step into a voting booth and not have to shun one belief in order to support the other, or better still, when gay marriage and gun rights are so commonly accepted that they don’t need to be campaign issues in the first place.