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Monday, January 19, 2015

Constrained Choice and Owning the Wilderness

Bow can choose whether he wants an apple or some yogurt.

He can choose whether to stay inside or go out.

He can choose to exercise or to rest.

But these are all constrained choices, and he can't, for instance, choose to move to Africa tomorrow. Then again, neither can I.  My choices are constrained, too, though, admittedly, not as much.

Bow can no more change his place of residence by mere choice, than I can go live next door instead of here, without consulting the neighbors about it, or emigrate to a different country without getting permission from the local authorities.  We are all very constrained about where we are allowed to go.

Many people would like to come live here, but they can't.  Many others may want to leave this area, but they don't know how. Not without a job or a place to live or some friends or someone to support them.

People sometimes feel trapped. They may want to go live someplace else, but they can't, unless the people who are in charge of someplace else agree, and even then, they would have to live by rules set down by the people in charge there. Most Americans who are out of work do not even consider working abroad. The natural emigration out of difficult economic circumstances is thwarted by borders -- real and psychological. When there is a famine in one country, people tend to go someplace else where there is no famine, but sometimes the life that they find there is not good.

Sometimes people become enslaved, because they don't know any other way to live. Involuntary servitude happens when choices are so constrained that in order to live, you have to do another person's bidding. whether you like it or not.

Bow is not a slave, because he does not have to work for a living at all, and can choose what he does, albeit from a limited menu of choices. He is not supporting me. I am supporting him. He does not serve me; I serve him. I serve him all day long, meeting his  basic needs, so much so that I can't really leave or go someplace else until he goes to sleep each night, unless I have a sitter.

But wouldn't it be better if Bow were free, free to live in his natural habitat? Yes, much in the same way that it would be good if I could go live free in my natural habitat. But my natural habitat has been destroyed, and his is in the process of being destroyed. So we are refugees, in a way, both of us.

In this article from the New York Times, George Monibot addresses the great loss that most humans have suffered by the ecological changes that humanity has wrought.

While part of this lament resonates for me, another aspect of the article is very annoying. Like most people who are allowed to publish articles in the New York Times, Monibot is a left-winger. So he gets in a few jabs at an unconstrained economy before proceeding with his paean to primitive living.

We fetishize the freedom of business from state control; the freedom not to pay taxes; the freedom to carry guns and speak our minds and worship whom we will. But despite, in some cases because of, this respect for particular freedoms, every day the scope of our lives appears to contract.
We most certainly are not free to conduct our business any way we want, and where did he get this freedom not to pay taxes? I don't know of anyone who has such a freedom, whether the taxes are on income, purchased items or on the real estate and personal property that we already own, but must keep paying taxes on every year in order to be allowed to continue to own them. And yes, this taxation has a great deal to do with the constraints on our choice to live a more primitive life.

Property taxes are kept high so that land will be maximally exploited. Small farms have ceded to large, corporate agriculture not because the small farmers did not want to hold onto their family farms, but because regulation of food production, taxes on income and on land ownership and other government created pressures, including inheritance taxes that apply to the family farm when one generation ends and another takes over, have over the past hundred years pretty much eliminated the majority of privately held farming operations. Now many people who want to farm have to do it on the weekend, as a hobby, while they work in  a big city all week long.

Monibot is actually aware of this, and he has a plan for what to do with the abandoned family farm:

Across many rich nations, especially the United States, global competition is causing the abandonment of farming on less fertile land. Rather than trying to tame and hold back the encroaching wilds, I believe we should help to accelerate the process of reclamation, removing redundant roads and fences, helping to re-establish missing species, such as wolves and cougars and bears, building bridges between recovering habitats to create continental-scale wildlife corridors, such as those promoted by the Rewilding Institute.
I have not heard of this Rewilding Institute, but it sounds sinister. Mind you, I am allowing my own land to go wild just by not tending to it.

I don't need an institute to help me do that. My fences are crumbling on their own, my woods are being reclaimed without planting.  I just need to be left alone. In the wild corridors that Monibot envisions, will humans be allowed? Will they be allowed to hunt for a living and to become hunter-gatherers again? Or will government thugs keep these wild corridors wild by keeping everyone out? Will it be a paradise no one is allowed to enter, much less live in?

The wonderful thing about a wild existence is that you are allowed to pick all the flowers, hunt all the wildlife, eat all you can eat at a buffet served by nature, with only your strength to prevent others from encroaching on your own little eden. I wish I could give that to Bow, but how can I, when I can't even win this for myself? Taxation and regulation are a big part of the reason why.

All around the world, primates are being deported from their natural habitats and sent to sanctuaries and zoos, just as aboriginal people are moved to reservations.  Even macaques in Gibraltar get shipped off to places like Scotland, when doing what comes naturally bothers the people in charge.

The same people who believe in universal healthcare and high taxation of asset ownership  -- who think children should not be allowed to inherit the property that parents leave behind -- are the people who decry the loss of nature. Can't they see that it's their own policies that lead to this?

If real wealth is the ability to control vast expanses of nature, then aboriginal tribes wherever they are found are the richest people on earth. But they are also a small elite: less than the one percent. And yet most of the people who hate the wealthy don't think that less than one percent should be allowed to own wealth that, if exploited to the fullest, could feed billions of people. The policy articulated by James Monroe  in his presidential address  is the policy that most liberals support against the wealthy.
The hunter state can exist only in the vast uncultivated desert. It yields to the more dense and compact form and greater force of civilized population; and of right it ought to yield, for the earth was given to mankind to support the greatest number of which it is capable, and no tribe or people have a right to withhold from the wants of others more than is necessary for their own support and comfort.

 When you speak out against the one percent, remember this address by President Monroe and who the one percent are and always have been.


  1. I've never heard of the "Rewilding Inst." either, Aya, but it's plan is probably to be just as you say - run by government thugs.
    As you know I have a passion to help the Monarch butterflies, but I most certainly do NOT want to see government intervention in helping restore their numbers. In fact, their numbers started to rise last year, simply from the raised awareness and many entities starting up with products made to help raise them, cool products you could buy to show your support (signs, clothing, etc.), the ability to register your site as a habitat, etc.
    But, there was an element that cried out for government intervention. Now I am seeing several articles on the possibility that the govt. will get involved and guess what that will include? The govt. regulations will likely prohibit private hobbyists from having more than 10 monarch caterpillars, eggs, etc., and while I haven't seen anything on it yet, it will likely have something in the regulation about the native plants that support them. More tax dollars will be required to support a new agency, etc., etc., and we'll end up in even worse shape.
    One question you have in your article stood out for me; "Can't they see that it's their own policies that lead to this?". It's amazing, even stunning to me that the answer is always, always, "No".

    1. Hi, Kathy, I admire the work you have been doing with Monarch caterpillars and milkweed. I love the photos of the Monarch butterflies. I have milkweed on my property, too, but most of the butterflies I have seen here have not been Monarchs. You seem to be having a real impact on your property with your conservation efforts. It would be terrible for laws, regulations and government agencies to get in the way of that. I hope that doesn't happen.

  2. I do not think any institute knows as much as it thinks it knows about the wilderness. I remember what a disaster it was when they thought spraying the Spanish broom was a good idea a few years ago in the mountains. It was a waste of money, and the plant simply came back the next year. I always thought it was pretty and fragrant, and yes it was not native, but neither are houses or cars. I really never understood what the purpose of spraying the

    1. Hi, Julia. I agree. No institute can plan in advance for nature better than nature itself. If I want to conserve nature on my land, I just try to leave things alone as much as possible.

    2. Hi, Julia. I agree. No institute can plan in advance for nature better than nature itself. If I want to conserve nature on my land, I just try to leave things alone as much as possible.