Most of us grew up being taught that we were lucky to live in the land of the free. We were told that we should be grateful for the opportunities that we had in this free society. Even questioning this notion creates a defensive posture within patriotic America. But few really ask, how free are we?
Thoughts and feelings in America are dictated almost exclusively by headlines; objective thought has almost no place in modern society. Talk of the debt ceiling, economic recovery and more money printing dominate the news. In many conversations you will hear the phase "When things come back" mentioned more than once. What will bring things back?
Seeking objectivity we have taken a slow and careful look at the conditions that define the American experience today. There is not much freedom to be enjoyed especially when compared to the amount of talk about freedom. Instead the incentive to be productive is being snuffed out almost completely. Large corporations and powerful entities with government influence are able to navigate this environment in a manageable fashion. This class is established and the rungs of the ladder used to access it have been coated with Crisco.
There is tremendous economic incentive in place to be a sloth who must look to someone else to meet every need. We have long been the only voice asking if there is any problem with 45,000,000 people receiving food stamps. For those that have a problem with our question, we would like to ask if there is anyone concerned with the fact that an overwhelming portion of the food stamp funds are traded for cash at $0.50 on the $1.00? These proceeds are used to purchase desired products which typically include drugs, malt liquor, fuel or prepared food. While the government insists they must meet the needs of the downtrodden, we question whether rumbling stomach would produce more than pot-filled lungs?
In the event that some readers are not familiar with our stance that politics is a waste of time, we would like to move on from a hotly-contested federal issue to a more practical example of what we see. Florida is currently offering one of the best economic examples of what is wrong with the U.S. economy. Panhandling is tremendously popular and permeates every major traffic intersection. In an effort to properly analyze this phenomenon we intend to compare this occupation to a determined hard-working local handyman.
In order to start as a handyman you need experience, a truck, tools, a phone and customers. Craigslist will generate some leads if you stay on top of the ads. Good news, you got your first call. This came just in time too because the first credit card bill is due after buying tools, the truck payment is coming up, the insurance payment is due tomorrow, the registration was $400 and the phone is $100 a month. This customer has a clogged sewer line. Getting to the house takes a few gallons of gas but should be worth it.
The customer insists that you be insured to come in the home. Once that hurdle is cleared time to address the clog by offering to remove the toilet, run a snake down the line clearing it and re-installing the toilet. You feel confident that $150 is a bargain for this nasty three-hour task. The customer is unemployed and thought Craigslist was a route to saving money so you have to do it for $100 because you have bills to pay. The customer also needs a window changed out. This is an easy job but you can not do it because you must pull a window instillation permit and you cannot do that because you are not a licensed contractor. Besides, this job is easy and they will probably have an illegal put it in for $75 when it would cost $350 for you to do it after county inspection fees.
Now you have to deposit the $100 into your business checking account and keep adequate records as your quarterly estimated tax payment will be due soon. After tending to the administrative side of the business you have put in 9 hours today and can only hope tomorrow will be better. On the way home while stopped at a light a panhandler offers you a cold water for $1 and that helps you feel good about helping him.
Should you feel good about helping him? He is downtrodden and just can't do any better right? Well we need to look at what a day in his business is like before we rush to judgement.
The day will typically begin waking up with a smashing headache in a weekly rate motel. Don't worry about hitting the morning commuters they are never in a good mood anyway. Around 10:00 it is time to get perched on the concrete median of a major intersection to begin selling. It is important to look disheveled in order to gain the maximum amount of sympathy from drivers. There are no barriers to entry. Don't worry about the fact that you are walking through traffic as people rush to get to meetings and important appointments. In fact, the best possible outcome would be a minor injury incurred if you are struck by an insured driver. There are thousands of lawyers that will take the case on contingency and you are set for months with a $10,000 settlement. Don't worry about paying any taxes, licence fees, permit costs or fines. In fact, you discover that there is a powerful lobby in place representing the panhandling business. This picture was taken at a Tampa City Council meeting where a ban on panhandling was voted down:
Most readers will shrug this off and say they don't want the lifestyle. This is not to be shrugged off. There is a massive economic incentive in place to be a dependent today in America. The burdens are shifted to the productive. The difficulty associated with being a small entrepreneur is more than daunting. The complexities of operating in this system are at a level that encourages people to seek an easier way. Food stamps, unemployment, early social security, disability, panhandling and soon to come, outright theft.
When the printing press stops and easy money is no longer available to fund economically insane programs the 30% of Americans dependent on government handouts will look for someone to blame. Since this politically meaningful class will demand what they perceive is their right we can expect even tighter controls to be placed on productive entities. Do not expect the bankrupt government to go down without a fight.
If there is no way to create capital and each step forward is met with an array of daunting challenges advancement is not likely. If advancement and the dream of capital creation is not available your only option is to work for the machine or provide labor for a company that is large enough to lobby in defense of their position. How is this different from the serfs who were shackled to their socioeconomic condition forced to tend to the assets of the ruling class?
How do you avoid serfdom in these conditions?