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Why are we always asking permission to be free?

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I had actually had something completely different in mind for writing today, but I got side tracked when I saw a story floating around on some of our friend’s Facebook pages.  The state of South Carolina, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided to uphold a law making it legal to buy raw milk.  You can read the whole thing here, if you haven’t seen it already.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good that the residents of South Carolina still have this option.  A good friend of our’s runs a milk share program here in the Tucson area, and I am very glad it is legal in the state of Arizona (as well as Washington and Idaho).  I think raw milk is excellent for your health, and it happens to be delicious when its not harvested in the hot as hell part of the summer here.  Yet this article still made me angry instead of happy.

I am not invasive

I am not invasive

We have seen so much in the news in recent months and years about the raw milk struggle, or the Michigan DNR pig fiasco, or front yard gardens, etc.  We are doing things we know to be right in the universe, but we are being punished by those aligned against us, that for whatever reason, feel they have the right to dictate whats going on in our lives.

Bulldoze this

Bulldoze this

So we decide that we have had enough.  We band together to fight for a woman who has had her front yard garden destroyed without her consent by a busy body city.  For a person who had their car towed because it was too old and run down to stay in the driveway.  For the person that wants to send a hand-packed lunch to school instead of buying a plate of processed crap.  We get angry. make signs, make phones calls, all in the hopes of GETTING SOME RANDOM BUREAUCRAT TO AGREE WITH US.

These mind numbed functionaries think of you as little children, and they are the enlightened adults that know best what you should do in your own life.  By constantly trying to fight these things in the court systems, we are agreeing with them.  We have ceded our rights to someone that doesn’t deserve them.  They are not our superiors, they are only men and women.  Men and women who feel the need to regulate everything in your life so you conform to a little gray mold and in the end we will all be the same.

So what do we do?

Stop looking to the government and the courts to say something is OK.  If you want to drink raw milk, go get a damn cow and drink it.  If you can’t own one, find someone who does.  Cows make a ton of milk, trust me, there is some laying around somewhere.  Go buy it or barter for it.

You want a front yard garden?  Go plant the hell out of your front yard.  Build raised beds, plant fedges, plant fruit trees.  Plant as many sharp and prickly plants as you can along the edges, make sure that anyone coming in to trespass knows they just got beat up by a plant.

You want backyard chickens, go get you some chickens.  Build a nice coop in the backyard.  Share some eggs with your neighbours.  Offer them some chicken compost if they garden or have any trees.

We keep waiting for permission from mommy and daddy government to go out and live our lives.  They have only as much power as we are willing to give them, and the moment we stand up and realize that, the sooner we will win.  Governments love nothing more than for us to isolate ourselves away from each other, because then we feel weak.  If there is one thing writing this blog, and running my Facebook page has taught me, it’s that we are not alone, and we are not weak.  If they wanna fight, we will give em one, and they will lose.

These governments that stand for so much petty parental interference aren’t even the vibrant monstrosities they were a few decades ago.  They are broke.  How many cities aren’t running a deficit each year?  How many aren’t laying off police?  Or working 4 days to keep the lights on?  Or turning off street lights to save power?  They literally cannot afford to be this petty.  They cannot afford to arrest all of us.  So stop worrying about whether your little crumb of freedom will be doled out from the bureaucracy, go out with the whole loaf, and hold it high.  Light a fire of freedom for everyone to see.  The most important thing you can do is live your life as a sovereign citizen of this grand republic, and that will make you freer than overturning any law or ordinance.

It’s a refund, not a deposit from the money fairy

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It’s that time of year again.  Time for the cold to back away, and the warmth of spring to start to emerge.  Time for green things to appear in your yard again.  Time for birds to start singing, and little baby bunnies to start hopping through your yard.  Time for everything to be right in the world, and growing.

Time for you to sit down at a keyboard and ram your head repeatedly into the desk as you struggle to understand a language denser and more full of misery than an Aramaic version of the story of Job.  Time for your to scramble to remember in intimate financial detail things that have at this point happened more than a year ago.  Time for you to learn to fine art of coercing something more obstinate than an ox on Valium to do what you want.

Time to PAY YOUR TAXES.

taxes2

Having only one W2 to slog through this year, and having a company that gets them to me quickly, I had the distinct joy of getting to dance with the devil hiding in the details.  If you had the Marquis D’Sade sit down and design a system specifically to induce misery, he would just sit back and say “Screw it, I will just use the US tax code.  Everything else I do will just pale in comparison”.

For example.  I use TaxCut software to file.  Which I have to say, works great.  I have no issues with the program at all.  At the end, it allows me to electronically file both the federal and state return, of course.  So I file them both.  Yesterday I get a message saying the state of Arizona rejected my return, so I log in to see why.  The state rejected it because the feds hadn’t accepted it yet.  Really!?  Why must this process be so painful?

taxes1

I do my best to keep any kind of politics out of my blog, since I think the political mind just divides us and offers us an illusion of choice.  If you wanna know, I am a Libertarian, which means I disagree with everyone.  That’s not my point here, so don’t worry about it.  I work with people generally under the age of 25, so they don’t know what they are talking about yet.  My mission is to fill the skulls of mush with wisdom.  There are just a few things that repeatedly come up at this time of year, that I here so often, and I feel the need to explode a few myths.

It’s a refund, not magic free money:

This is my absolute biggest pet peeve.  I see it in both friends, and customers, and every time it makes me cringe just a little bit.  They rush around to get their taxes filed, so they can get a huge refund back.  Then, even if under normal circumstances they would be wise with money, they run out and blow it on something stupid.

A tax refund is not like winning the lottery.  It’s YOUR money, you just convinced them to give some back to you.  If you had done your withholding correctly, you would have had that money all along.  For example, a friend got back $2400 combined from feds and state, and she was talking about going on vacation with it.

This is someone who consistently complains about being broke.  If she would just fill out her withholding correctly, she would have $200 more a month to work with.  How much of a difference would that make?  The money you get, by and large, comes from your own pocket.  If you get a refund, you just used a 0% savings account to store it for you.  It’s not a good thing, you got screwed.

Deducting something you shouldn’t spend, isn’t a good plan:

A deduction is also not magic.  A deduction means you spent money on SOMETHING, and the government lets you save your tax rate on it.  So if you spend a dollar on something deductible, and your tax rate is 15%, you save 15 cents.  If that thing isn’t a wise purchase, your deduction isn’t making your money.

Another example time.  One of my guys at work was talking of buying a house because he could get a mortgage deduction on his interest.  He is a good guy, and a hard worker, but he works for me part time.  He can’t afford a house.  His plan was to send the bank about $400 in interest each month, so he could save $60 (15% of $400).  He seemed somewhat taken aback when I offered to just pay him $100 if he sent me $400 and he kept renting.

Not having the write the IRS a check, doesn’t mean you don’t pay taxes:

I have heard the statement, I got some money back, so I don’t pay any taxes.  Do you have a job?  Yes.  Do you get paid by that job?  Yes.  Then you pay taxes on your income.  Look on your check, those 5 little lines that make your total smaller, those are taxes.  Even if you get your federal and state income tax back, you still pay SS and Medicare.

See the IRS is brilliant.  They knew the best way to make this OK, was to hide the taxes.  If people had to write a big check every April 15th, people might question what was going on.  So they not only authorized federal withholding of taxes, but they made it mandatory.  You actually pay a fine if you don’t allow them to withhold your money.  Even if you pay it in full on time in April, you pay a fine for not letting them hold your money.  Why is that do you think?  Maybe because they don’t want people to see the process, and ask questions.  If they could make the shift from, I am paying my taxes, to, maybe I got a big refund so I can go on vacation, they would win the game.  But that would never work right?  Crap.

A Changing View of Career in America

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I have, what is at the moment a completely wild guess about our economy.  I am going to flesh it out, and we will wait to see if I am right long term.  If I am right, I think it means good things for our country going forward.  If I am wrong, then I fear it means we have wasted a golden opportunity to change our culture.

I saw an article, which by the time you read this will be about three weeks old, stating that the workforce participation in the United States is the lowest since 1981.  Lets just take that at face value, since I have no way to personally verify that knowledge.  Setting aside all of the bellyaching about unemployment at 8.1%.  If you lost your job recently and are struggling, I am sorry.  I have been unemployed, it sucks.  I would also recommend you truck on down to your local Sonic, McDonald’s or Target.  All three are always hiring, and working is much better than sitting on your ass.  Its much easier to work into a better position when you are up and pumping.

So on the surface, that statistic is supposed to sound dire and scary.  After all, if fewer people are working, then the wheels of the economy will grind to a halt.  How can we possibly go on unless every adult between the ages of 18 and 65 is engaged full time in running the corporate machines that drive this country?

It will go on, just as it did before 1981.  This horrible phenomenon of both adults in a household working is relatively new in history.  Lets take a look at some Bureau of Labor Statistics findings.  Call them up and take a look, I found it fascinating.  Short version, in 1950, only 30% of women of all ages worked outside them home, in 2000, it was 47%. So that’s where I am coming from, and I will stop with the statistics now.  If you really want more, the numbers are out there.

I am beginning to wonder, if perhaps my generation is starting to shift how we view careers and family.  To the previous generation, it was just assumed that both people should work.  Kids were left in daycare, and parents went off to chase the corporate dream.  We were all told that our happiness lay in stuff, not in each other.  Now, I see many people I went to school with, having a stay at home mom with the kids.  In my own life, we were able to realize the dream of having my wife not have to work.  Sure, we have traded some plastic trappings to make that a reality, but we are both happier.

What if this current phenomenon in unemployment is not caused by true lack of work, but by people realizing the bill of goods we were sold?  What if following the college path straight into a cubical isn’t the American dream after all?  What if our happiness isn’t measured in a series of digits in a bank account, but in the beauty we can create with hearth and home?

Time never moves in a straight line.  It is a constant flow of action and reaction.  Thesis creates anti-thesis and moves forward, endlessly churning between two extremes.  The 1950s, often seen as the ideal white picket era, was created by the children of the roaring 20s.  The parallels between 2000-2010 and the 2os are almost uncanny.  Won’t our children move forward and create a new idealistic family era?

So my guess America, is that we will continue to see the labor participation drop.  We will see more focus on the home and family.  At first out of economic necessity, but then later out of an appreciation for what it brings to our culture. Yes, much damage has been done to ourselves, but we can still heal.  That is my great dream.  That we will rediscover what has been robbed from us, and we gain what is truly of value.

Why you are a Libertarian (whether you know it or not).

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What do you think of when you think of a libertarian?  If you are a statist, you probably think of a bomb flinging anarchist.  If you are a conservative, you see someone who wants to pass out pot to gay people on their way to getting married.  If you are a liberal, you see someone who uses their knife to pull the trigger on their gun while they run over homeless people they refuse to help.

No matter what you thought of. you are wrong.  If you think you are anything other than a libertarian, you missed the point.  You are a libertarian, whether you know it or not.  The sooner we get more people to realize that truth, the better off we will be. Check out this quick quiz.  Its only 10 questions, just check it out.

Libertarianism is the true art of finding common ground, by respecting all peoples as equal.  A less eloquent way to put it is, you are free to swing your fist as hard as you want, until you connect with someone.  Libertarians believe that all men are born free, and created equal.  No matter what it is you want to do, you have the freedom to do so, as long as it doesn’t harm others.  Doesn’t that sound like something we could use more of in this country?

That sounds so simple, people tend to think it won’t work.  Yet what issues won’t that solve?  If you want to live gay, go for it, it’s none of the governments business.  If you want to do drugs, go for it.  As long as you don’t endanger anyone else.  By the way, we already have that function for alcohol.  If you want to own a big gun, go for it.  If you hurt someone with it, you are going away for a long time.

This works for every issue, I simply chose to use some of the most divisive and politically charged issues I could think of.  We have convinced ourselves that we know better how our neighbor should live their life, that we try to use government to enforce our values on someone else.  Who gave us the right to dictate what someone does in their own home?  Do you want the government coming in to your living room and telling you what to do?  Of course not.

Thats why I know that in our souls, each of us is a Libertarian.  Because none of us want someone else telling us what to do.  If you believe that you should be free to do whatever you want, but someone else should be restricted, then that makes you a hypocrite.  When explained simply, Libertarianism isn’t a unified philosophy.  In fact, getting libertarians to agree is like herding cats down a hall way.  Yet it works, because its most basic tenet is the freedom to live your life by your own code as long as it hurts no one else.  That is the core of tribal philosophy, and we need to start remembering that.  So much energy is wasted in trying to get others to conform to an ideal not their own.  Every day we either become more free, or less free.  Isn’t it about time we became more free.

Politics is not the solution, People are.

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I am no longer a political junkie.  Nor will I ever be a political blogger, so before you click screaming from this post.  Hear me out.  This isn’t about which clown will take the oath he intends to break before he steps down off the platform.  This is about why things are going to have to change, and why that change has made my life better.  I bet if you look for these examples in your own life, you will find them too.

We are, at least in America, hip deep in the latest election cycle.  By the way, that cycle apparently starts immediately after the inauguration, since people have been lining up to run since 2008.  Well, actually its the same people that ran in 2008, but that proves my point.  With all of these clowns running, when was the last time you heard anything different from them?  More importantly, when you heard something different, when was the last time anything changed?  Do we really believe that going out and punching a button next to a D or an R will make a difference?  Judge Andrew Napalitano spells this out better than I ever could.  I heard the audio the other day, but I had to link to the video instead.  Personally I find the video distracting, but his speech is spot on.  Whether you agree with him or not, its worth the 5:00 to listen.

So why did I just say I don’t care about politics, and then talk about it?  Because it was the easiest way to illustrate a point.  We as a people, are told to isolate ourselves more and more away from “the others”.  We are trapped into believing that there are only ever two sides to each issue.  Do we tax the rich, or do we throw old people into the landfill?  Do we bomb Syria, or will Hezzbollah run rampant down the streets of New York?  Do we drill oil directly through a caribou skull, or do we ban all cars and plastic entirely?  Do we ban recreational drugs, or will our youth all curl up in a ball in the basement listening to Pink Floyd?  We are trapped in the great lie of dichotomy (a little over an hour, good to listen to on a commute).

Those examples are all extreme, and you can see right through them.  How many in your life can’t you see through?  I myself was one of the biggest culprits of this.  I believe God gives us the ability to see right from wrong, and to me those two extremes shall never meet.  My moral compass is black and white.  What I have learned though, is that people are not.  I thank God for bringing me to Tucson.  It was here that I learned that although a persons actions can be judged, the people themselves are more fluid.

Here in Tucson I learned that hippies have some awesome ideas about food.  Local and natural really is better.  I learned that not all Muslims want to blow up schools full of children.  I am in fact good friends with one.  I learned that not all potheads are lazy.  One in fact started his own company and works harder than I do.  I learned that Republicans can be just as bad at running a government as democrats.  I was forced to expose myself to new types of people, and that changed my perspective on myself and everyone else.

Reach out to others that you would normally shun.  Worst case scenario, you have a fruitless conversation.  I believe deep down, despite whats on the surface, we are all Libertarians.  I will prove that later this week.  Instead of focusing on the 10% where we disagree.  Focus on the 90% we have in common.  There is a very thin thread between a commune hippy and a survivalist.  Maybe instead of hating each other, we can share rain water harvesting techniques.  If you just spend time in your little box, the walls will start to close in on you.  When we demonize each other, the only ones who win is government.  Just ask the Untermenschen in the corner.

What are you good at, and what do you do?

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In case you missed the title, what are you good at?  Are you good at writing?  Maybe you are good at teaching?  Are you an all pro linebacker?  Do you build amazing kitchens?  Can you rebuild an engine in your living room while watching the Simpsons?  I don’t know what I’m good at.  Do you?

In my experience, most people don’t really know what they are good at.  What are we told to do in that case?  Well, often we are told to go to college.  Those first 18 years were basically a mulligan.  You are told you don’t really know what you want to do, so go to college.  That will get you ready for the real world.  OK. What am I going to study?  Well, get a business degree.  Everything in life is business.  It will be easier with a piece of paper.

So now we spent four years, and conservatively $25000 getting a degree.  Which by the way is $2.9 million by retirement if you had invested it instead of spending it on college.  Thats not related, but I figured you should know.

So now what?  Well, I really like cooking, but I have this business degree, so I should go get a job in management.  I really like tinkering with lights, but I can’t pursue that, because I have to use this degree.  I like to forge knives, but I can’t, because I have to use this degree.

Even worse is when you don’t know what you are good at, even with the piece of paper.  So we plunge headfirst into a world we don’t want, and a world that doesn’t want us.  We are the lost, the overlooked, the ignored.  At best we get worn down to fit into the square hole.  We settle into the placid suburban life, and lie to ourselves that it makes us happy.  At worst, we spend our entire lives running from ourselves.  Unable to rest, because no matter how far you run, you are right there with you.

I got started thinking of this yesterday, because I saw an article, based on a book.

 

I have always struggled with the break between my passions of food, cooking and agriculture, and my ability to provide a living for myself and my family.  Who doesn’t struggle with this?  My dad would chuck is IBM life in an instant to live in his truck with a beret, and banjo and an easel.  I want to run screaming from a retail career (and who doesn’t) and live on a mountain and raise goats and cows to sell.  A friend of mine goes to school, to learn how to run his business, which takes time away from his running his business.

Although the book excerpt and the article make the contention that if you are unsure, you should farm, I don’t whole heartedly agree with that.  Yet I could completely understand the passion of the writer in talking about how much happier he was following his dream.  Wouldn’t we all be in a better place, if only we stopped to become the best in the world at whatever we cared about.  In the future, someone who can make the knives in the world will be a hell of a lot more valuable than an average middle manager.  Maybe we should all stop trying to fit in that damn square hole.

We all know someone who struggles with this disconnect.  My goal was simply to get you to think about it.  I know from experience how lonely that place of struggle is.  Reach out to someone today, and tell them their dream isn’t stupid.  Tell them, they should work towards that future.  Share this post with them, or send them a personal message.  Wouldn’t we all be better of if we did that instead of sanding down each others edges?

The Coming Tribal Future

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Why the tribal future?  What does it mean?

Nations have reached the peak of their evolution, and will once again begin to backslide.  There are only 3 forms of organization that are capable of moving forward into the future.  That’s because it is in their best interest to perpetuate the group.

You may ask, why doesn’t a nation make the list?  Nation states as we know them are fairly new innovations.  Even as recently as our founding documents, wise men knew that for a nation to succeed it must be broken up into little chunks.  We were meant to be small states working together, not a giant blithering federal colossus.   A nation cannot succeed long term because given time, the rulers will no longer be affected by the destruction of its people.  Do we really think Washington cares if unemployment hits 20%?  As long as they can continue to get elected, they will be quite content to sell us down the river.  So nations in this form cannot survive forever.

Instead there are three forms that can move forward, again, in some form:

The corporation – Love them or hate them, it’s in a corporations best interest to survive.  Its how they continue to make money.  A corporation, when left to its own devices, will do everything in its power to ensure it continues.  Part of that is ensuring the health and success of employees and customers.

A church –  Churches exist to convert others to their cause for the purpose of the salvation of their souls.  Thus even though individual faithful are capable of self sacrifice, the creed will continue on.  This is not a negative indictment of the faith.  It is my duty as an evangelical Christian to convert others to my ways, for their own salvation.  Further discussion on that is for another day, the point here is that they will continue indefinitely.

The tribe – It is in everyones best interest to work together, because it allows the group as a whole to survive.  Families, neighbors and community working together, towards common goals, to solve common problems.  The local nature and close knit community allows this to be achieved without coercion, because if it doesn’t get done, everyone is affected.  This isn’t mindless altruism, its self preservation.

I believe this is the future we are heading towards, and I believe that because all issues of survival have to be handled locally.

A shift is coming.  Whether it means war, depression, pandemic, or betrayal, we will be forced to rely on ourselves rather than on a giant sustaining infrastructure.  Rather than staring at our neighbors over a picket fence and calling code enforcement on him, we might have to build a barn together.  Rather than driving to Safeway and picking up some bleach bread and corn products, we might have to harvest our own apples.  Rather than a corn fed steak, it might be Bambi burgers.  When that happens, we will have to work together, and work tribally to survive.

I believe a tribal future is coming.  Thats why I embarked on this paleo diet.  For me its about getting ready.  Its about testing the boundaries of what is common knowledge.  Its a test of faith in myself.  Its about learning new ways to survive.

Yet what if I am wrong?  What if I learn how to build things again, grow my own food, bond with my tribe, and learn to do for myself, and nothing happens?  Did I not still enrich my life?

As someone I respect says, survivalism is about making life better if times get tough, or even if the don’t.  Reach out now.  Start learning new things.  The world is so much deeper than the media would have you believe.  Start forming that tribe now, so that you, and we, can move into the future together.  Walk my path with me, or walk your own, but get up and walk.