The Relativity Of Freedom

Selling pork for cash looks weird to urbanized 2014 America but it’s OK. Bacon is not a crime!


Flashback to a zillion years ago. I was young and broke and needed to get from point A to point B to take a shitty seasonal job. (This was back when poor people had jobs and I had better hair.) I bought, at a pittance, a used commercial vehicle. I licensed it, insured it, learned the magic voodoo of double clutching, threw some scrounged tools in the back, and hit the road. It broke down over and over, I patched it together over and over. So long as it kept rolling I was happy.

I lived in that beast while I worked. It sucked compared to a real house but the rent was cheap and I was tough. Besides, real houses suck too. I saw a lot of the country. I never paid for a hotel. I tried to pick a nice view every time I moved. Deserts, mountains, plains, and coasts; for a while, it was my personal back yard.

When I was at the wheel, with all my shit stowed and food in the cooler and a bed to sleep in and Mrs. Curmudgeon happily riding shotgun… what more did I need? I was the pauper captain of my own rusting leaking barely running ship. Some men never feel that free. I was lucky and I knew it. I still miss it.


Flashback to a zillion years ago minus a few. The vehicle was gone and I’d wound up in Europe; once again chasing a job. (This was back when Europe had jobs.) Some local friends and I were discussing our various exploits and I mentioned my days as a nomad.

“But that’s illegal.” They gushed.

“What’s illegal about a shitty old vehicle?” I asked.

“It’s a commercial truck. How could they let you own one?”

“Let?” I bellowed. “They don’t let me do a god-damn thing. There’s no magic about it. If I can afford it, I can have it.” I pointed to a small (European sized) paving truck across the street. “If I feel like driving around in a cement mixing truck and can afford the truck and the fuel, it’s nobody’s business but mine.”

“But you have to be a cement company.”

“No you don’t.”

Luckily the discussion veered to other topics and more wine arrived. I still remember that moment. It realized that Americans really are a different breed. I was shocked that my good friends simply assumed something was illegal because it was unusual. (Heck, it was stupid and expensive too, but it was definitely legal.)

Everything which is not forbidden is allowed. I believe that. I intend to stick with it until they plant my ass in the ground.


That was then and this is now. In my life I’ve seen a lot of water pass under the bridge and I’ve learned that freedom is a living thing. It’s complicated. It comes from within.

Freedom is relative. It’s not about tanks in the streets if your HOA wants to nitpick about the color of your mailbox. It’s not about freedom of speech if you really need your job and your boss is a tyrant. It’s not about gun rights if you own a business in California and you’re worried about being trapped there as the forever hated (and perpetually exploitable) 1%.

It it freer to have gay marriage and a smoking ban? Is it freer to have a president who smoked pot by breaking the law, or a state created medical marijuana monopoly, or legal pot and cops stopping cars at the state line?

America is different but the same. Americans are different but some are the same. Europeans? Who fuckin’ knows. I wish them well but they seem doomed. If I ever go back I’ll drop by London and ask around. Perhaps young Muhammad of London still believes Europe is free or maybe he’ll just say that while playing with his smartphone (monitored by the NSA?) under the eye of a CCTV (monitored by who?). The world is a confusing place. Concealed carry is old news to me, a new but viable thing in Russia, legally granted but bureaucratically impossible in D.C. , and the once mighty but now supine Brits are debating cooking equipment. So which is freer? A Brit with a constitution that can’t carve a turkey or a pistol packing Russian who’s getting shaken down by the cops?


I went a bit afield there eh? Drank too much coffee I guess.

The point is that I’ve had many people, a few on the blog and many more privately freak out about homegrown food. What worries me is that they’re so quick to give up. Bureaucratically annoying is not the same as impossible. Not yet at least.

Yes there are a lot of regulations. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass to follow them all. Yes, the government would be a lot happier if I’d stay in a cubicle and buy my food at Wal-Mart.

Even so, it’s legal to raise food and (provided you jump through hoops) sell it. It’s legal to make cash transactions in a parking lot. (I report it on my taxes.) I think all of us, who value freedom so highly, should endeavor to do all those things which are legal but annoy regulators. It’s our civic duty. Don’t bail out on the easy freedoms which are still available to us.

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About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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25 Responses to The Relativity Of Freedom

  1. Weisshaupt says:

    Freaking out about homegrown food? I wonder what these people will do when that is all there is to eat.

    • Steal sneakers and burn down Autozone?

    • PJ says:

      I didn’t even know anybody was freaking out about homegrown food, and wonder why I should care. If my neighbors and I trade grapes and rhubarb for tomatoes, it’s our business. Fuck everybody else.

      • Yes, there are people freaking out about homegrown food.

        Frankly, there is no hobby so boring that it’s practitioners aren’t fodder for a regulator stealing their fun: Motorcyclists fret about helmet laws. 4×4 fans fret about closed trails. Gearheads fret about EPA regs on their engines. HAMs fret about FCC regulations. Surfers fret about beach regs. Target shooters fret about gun restrictions. Hunters must bow to the DNR. Fishermen must bow to the DNR too, unless they’re busy worrying about boating regulations. I could go on forever.

        And yes, food brings out the clipboard army too. In the last few years, folks selling raw milk got raided at gunpoint, homesteaders narrowly avoided having their livestock “chipped”, and the Department of Agriculture found a “terrorism” angle to gardening.

        Maybe that’ll make your next rhubarb pie extra tasty? (I mowed my rhubarb down by accident. No rhubarb for me!)

  2. cspschofield says:

    We really need to amend the second amendment;

    “The occasional horsewhipping or outright termination of an officious Government Stooge being necessary to the continued freedom of the citizenry, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”

    • I’ve come to see it as more complex than merely government. Sure, there are plenty of Government stooges but even if they were all scared mice we’d still find freedom limiting bullies. They’d take root among HOA associations, zoning boards, hospital boards, bowling leagues, churches, clubs, social settings, etc… I’ve come to believe the need to bully people is deeply ingrained in all humanity. America’s natural defence used to be that we were outrageously hard to boss around. It worked to defend freedom almost by accident. However, there’s been a generation’s long concerted effort to create a new kind of citizenry. One that’s easier to “work with”. I think that’s coming to fruition in the modern era but with only mixed results. I salute Americans whenever they’re deliberately resistant to groupthink.

      • Mark Matis says:

        Without the Only Ones, those you mention are not much of a challenge to anyone claiming Second Amendment rights. Your Betters et al stand behind the Blue Wall. And the Only Ones do whatever they are told by whoever signs their paychecks. Oath of office to the Constitution be damned.

      • Well yes and no. Of course little tyrants (for example some HOA busybody that’s giving you shit about your garbage cans) aren’t as bad as the Government. A twerp with a clipboard is not the same “challenge” as a SWAT team tearing your front door off the hinges. But that doesn’t make little tyrants benign nor does the “second amendment” make them vanish. For example, HOA twerps can and do push people around a good long ways before many victims finally go through the effort of selling their house. Even if you’ve got to sell and move (a wise move in my eyes) it’s an acceptance that the HOA really did kick you out of your own home. They did that without badges and tanks. Conversely you can stay put and spend the rest of your life fighting over by-laws every time you put up Christmas lights. Regardless a room full of sniper rifles isn’t going to reasonably solve the problem of an oppressive HOA and your best option is to stay out or get out.

        Another example is a bad boss. Folks might put up with a world of shit at the workplace. Depending on economics, it might take a lot of misery to make one jump jobs. A cannon in your back yard won’t “solve” an unpleasant job situation.

        I’m trying to say it’s a spectrum, that little indignities matter too, and that a good defence against then is to practice freedoms as a matter of course. Get out there and grow your own tomatoes, sell bacon, or drive an outlandish vehicle, hunt rabbits with a spear, or whatever floats your boat regardless of the hassle involved. It’s a small piece of freedom you can seize or leave behind.

        I think the real path of personal freedom is not won or lost in an epic gun battle against a monolith government. It’s won or lost internally. If you decide it would be a hoot to own a cement mixer and just plain do it… then you’re enjoying freedom right there.

  3. abnormalist says:

    Had a similar conversation with some friends about how I built a boat, and am starting to build a camper. Question immediately “You can’t do that, it cant be legal” was best answered with “Why not, and whos going to stop me?”

    I think that last part is the most important… If I do it right, whos going to stop me?

    • Good for you!

      I’ve been pondering building a little Ooze Goose for semi-wilderness lake exploring but probably not for a couple more years.

    • Phil B says:

      Same thing with me – I’ve built three boats (a 14 foot dinghy, a 15 foot rowing shell and a 19 footer) plus a 16 foot kayak. The usual “You have never done that before, what if it sinks .. ” etc. and so forth.

      My answer is along the lines “It may shock you but Orville and Wilbur Wright did not have a First Class Honours Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from UCLA AND they never applied fr a permit from the government either …”.

      I now live in NZ where if you say that you are going to build a boat, they will say “Good on you. What kind and will it be a steel or wood boat?” They are awash with guns and knives too …

      • “I now live in NZ where if you say that you are going to build a boat, they will say “Good on you. What kind and will it be a steel or wood boat?” They are awash with guns and knives too …”

        If I could drive my truck there I’d probably be en route right now.

        If you were in the US I’d be winding up a salespitch to trade 200# of delivered pork for the construction of a solid little Ooze Goose boat. 🙂

      • abnormalist says:

        For some reason I cannot reply to your AD, but 200# or pork for a boat you say?!?

        hmmm, lemme do some numbers 😀

      • I have my spam filters set on vaporize, you probably have to type the address manually. Try adaptive.curmudgeon@gmail.com

      • Yes, consider the idea. I’m daydreaming about it. Is that the same? This idea is not cleared on my end either but it’s not improbable.

        Mull it over. I like the idea of barter. I’m open to ideas. I deliver.

        I might as well expound about the Curmudgeonly boat that I’ve never yet found. I’m looking for a self propelled wilderness turtle to replace/augment my canoe experiences. A few weeks ago I found a blog that mentioned an Ooze Goose. I’d never previously heard of such a thing. It seemed; small, cheap, tough, simple, and “buildable”. Squat and ugly and presumably seaworthy. Meant for my kind of boating. I was inspired; mostly because it’s small and lends itself to both small motors and small sails. (Oars as backup.) I could be wrong. Maybe they handle like a brick? Do you have an opinion on them?

        I’m a wilderness lake / canoe guy. I’m looking for a boat that does about the same thing except without the paddling. My boating habitat is lakes in the northern US and Canada, often in the wilderness (either designated or de facto), sometimes quite small bodies of water, but the lakes connect so you can hop from one to the next for many lakes in a chain. I usually camp out a week or more at a stretch. Sometimes I must canoe across a larger lake to get to a smaller one. That’s always risky in a canoe! To cross “big water” I’ve got to hope the weather holds (it usually does), take a deep breath, and then paddle like hell to get across. It’s never more than a few miles of “open water” to cross but sometimes the trip feels like Vikings crossing to Greenland. As a canoer I must hang out in small lakes or the lee of islands and bays in bigger lakes. Even a rowboat can handle much rougher waves than a canoe so almost any worthy boat would let me play in bigger areas. Sometimes the lakes have shallow water so a shallow draft is vauled. I’m never in a place with any current.

        Canoe camping like I’ve done takes two strong paddlers. My canoe is too big for one man and I might want to go solo. Did I mention I’m tired of paddling? The goal is a flexible and laid back boat so I can fish and camp solo (or two people max) and leave the paddle stowed.

        A “lake exploring” boat would need capacity for two hefty adults (no more) with a week’s camping gear and a couple fishing poles. It must be tough but it doesn’t have to be fast. I already mentioned canoes get dicey on big lakes (sometimes I’ve been “windbound” for days); any boat that can hang out all week in small lakes and then handle a bit of waves in reasonable weather to get back to the truck would be perfect. There’s no “roof” on a canoe. All your stuff is exposed to the elements. A covered area on a boat would keep stuff dry and maybe you could shelter in it when it’s rainy. A shallow draw and being able to pull up on a flat rock or small beach to camp for the night would be ideal. Where I go, there are infrequent ramps so one man alone (me) can get a boat into in the water. From there I’d “lake hop” and see no boat docks or infrastructure for days. I’d just camp wherever I could pull the boat onto shore for the night.

        Man I’m sick of paddling. Have I mentioned that? Paddling blows. A small (not big!) motor would be heaven. Certain Canadian regs draw an arbitrary line at 9.9 horsepower. I might prefer an even smaller motor if the thrust is sufficient. (Carrying several day’s worth of fuel might be tough if the motor is thirsty? Plus motors are expensive and I’m cheap.)

        In some areas motors are off limits but a sail is OK. So maybe I’d remove the motor, drop a leeboard, and hoist something fabric? I’m not a sailor but I’d figure it out. It can’t take much prowess to sail faster than a canoe. I might also sail across big water to get to a smallish lake then, when it came time to zero in on fish, switch to use oars, or a tiny motor, or tow the canoe and use it for fishing. Or just drop anchor and forget about fish.

        Of course it would be my problem to buy the motor but I assume one needs plan ahead. A beefy mount point for a motor and/or a leeboard/rudder/mast to sail. Again, I’m just thinking aloud. Perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about.

        Am I barking up the wrong tree? Can such a boat exist? It’s gotta’ be an odd niche idea because everyone I know who has a motor boat tends to “camp for the night” back at the dock. So do sailboats. Canoes rock at camping but I’m sick of paddling. What’s the middle ground?

        Ah… it’s snowing outside but it sure is fun to think about it. If you’ve got ideas I’ll listen. I hope I’m not scaring you off with the daydreams of a guy who’s next fishing trip will involve an ice auger. 🙂

  4. Ano says:

    In the UK anyone can own any vehicle they like, including a Chieftain tank, I know a guy who owns one. To drive on the road you need the appropriate driving licence HGV, PSV, car, motorcycle, insurance and an MOT. There must be some weird rules in the rest of Europe. As for living in your vehicle thousands do and the only regs are on overnight parking and dumping of toilet waste.
    Your link to the BMA story about knives, well you have to realise that we have our share of loons too. We read daily about how Americans are threatened with jail for collecting rainwater or growing lettuce in your front garden. Unless your in a rental the latter is just a case of MYOB as we don’t have HOAs with any type of power like that.
    A huge majority of Europeans and Us are against this TTIP treaty which will enable the marketing of US farmed food. Nobody wants the GM frankenfood or the farming practices you allow with meat, fish and dairy. Most of the hormones and antibiotics used are not allowed in the EU. We fully understand people like yourself who take pleasure in growing your own.
    There was a recent attempt by monsanto etc to push through seed registration laws here. Its failing because millions of us save our own seeds anyhow but they atill attempted to make it so only big seed companies could market their products.
    Something to remember is that when you read news from the UK or Europe it is mainly wrote by the same sort of people who infest your cities whith whom you yourself have bugger all in common. So when we read their next proclamation decrying whatever we do what you do, just ignore it. The French I might add are particularly good at ignoring any law they feel the dislike.

  5. PJ says:

    When I was on one of the big homeschooling email lists for our state, it was commonplace for newbies to ask on their first post, how to get right with the authorities. I would invariably ask them, “Why bother”? I’d always point out that there were a lot of homeschoolers who had registered with the state but wished they hadn’t, but none who had refrained from registering and wish they had. Kids are parents’ responsibility, not the state. They simply never had considered just homeschooling without permission. There are a lot of people in this state who are “noncompliant”.

    My philosophy on this was best put by Robert Heinlein: “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

    HOA’s are a bit different, because we have signed off on them. I might “forget” an HOA regulation now and then, but if I get caught I am not going to fight it. If it bugs me enough I will simply move.

    “Americans are threatened with jail for collecting rainwater…”

    You have to realize these stories are rather rare. Even if such regulations exist, doesn’t mean most people pay any attention to them. America is a peculiar place. It is filled with bureaucrats and corruption, and therefore the bureaucrats must justify their existence by generating rules, but that does not mean we pay attention to them. I’d be willing to bet that we have a lot more nit-picky rules than Europeans have, but at the same time a lot less respect for those rules. I remember reading at one time that New York City had more people in the “education” system than all of West Germany (at the time), which had a much larger population. Out west, it’s even worse. Wyoming is one of the more free states in the country, yet it has more government employees per capita than any other state. Being on the government payroll is a form of dole in the west. The bureaucrats there take care not to push people too hard, lest they end up dry-gulched.

    Being free is more a state of mind than anything. If you want out of the cage you must work on yourself first.

    I’m just finishing re-reading Harry Browne’s “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World”. I recommend it highly.

    • I owe homeschoolers a great debt. They fought a battle that needed to be fought. At the time I didn’t understand enough to support them.

      Many decades ago homeschooling was just taking off. It was a huge political kerfluffle. I was well aware that public school sucked. Yet I naively assumed homeschooled kids would end up largely illiterate Jesus freaks. How I came to such a conclusion is a mystery. I guess a decade in a public school is long enough to become fully indoctrinated?

      As time went on, homeschooled kids started knocking out killer SAT scores, dominating spelling bees, and generally excelling in every endeavor. Good for them.

      The proof is in the pudding. I arrived at wider world view. I see now that the vehement opposition to homeschooling was precisely because public school administrators knew they couldn’t compete. If they’d “outlawed” home schooling I’d never have learned how much better kids could perform in other venues. I don’t think it was the teachers per se but more likely administrations that are “paid” by “headcount” (much like a slaughterhouse). If they were interested in educated kids they’d have smiled and happily let homeschooling do it’s thing. They considered each child a meal ticket and wished to chain them down.

      I try to remember my initial unsupported and wholly wrong bias against homeschooling. It reminds me that folks can, over time, be trained to have completely obtuse opinions. No one is immune to propaganda. I’m lucky I had the chance to see empirical evidence to change my mind. I got the hint (applied with a sledgehammer) and learned. Now I can’t take anyone who’s opposed to homeschooling seriously.

      As for Freedom in an Unfree World I saw it in the recesses of an Amazon book list somewhere. It is now added to my “on deck” book list.

      A.C.

      P.S. I’d like to point out that there’s nothing inherent in public schools that force them to suck. When a school, any school, focuses specifically on educating children, the result is educated children. It can be done in a public school. The real issue with public schools is that they’re engaged in “not-education”. For example; lunches, cafeterias, buses, sports, groundskeepers, headcounts, amassing piles of computers, noodling around with textbooks, standardized tests, State and Federal reporting, school nurses, building maintenance, infrastructure development, social engineering, diversity, anti-bullying programs, DARE to keep off drugs, band, vaccination programs, etc… Some of that stuff is laudable but none of it is strictly education. You can teach a kid to read with wood blocks, a handful of tattered books, and a well lit corner of a room with a comfy beanbag chair. The rest is window dressing.

      • PJ says:

        “If they’d “outlawed” home schooling I’d never have learned how much better kids could perform in other venues.”

        Actually they started from an illegal condition in many states. Homeschooling became legal in all 50 states because some parents decided to go ahead and break the law (despite the costs), and eventually the legislators came around even *against* the wishes of the teachers’ unions, which are usually the strongest lobbying group in any state. Homeschooling is one of those rare areas where liberty has increased over the years.

        “If they were interested in educated kids they’d have smiled and happily let homeschooling do it’s thing.”

        Exactly. If they really cared about educated kids, they’d simply eliminate government schooling. But that would not be in the interests of the school establishment. Kids can suck the hind tit as far as they are concerned. It’s important to understand where peoples’ incentives lie, to get a better fix on reality.

        By far the best expose I have ever read concerning schooling is John Taylor Gatto’s “Underground History of American Education”. It is literally a life-changing book. It’s now in revision but the older version is still available on Amazon I think. My favorite quote from that book (Gatto was a teacher in government schools for 30 years):

        “Looking back on a 30-year teaching career full of rewards and prizes, somehow I can’t completely believe that I spent my time on earth institutionalized; I can’t believe that centralized schooling is allowed to exist at all as a gigantic indoctrination and sorting machine, robbing people of their children. Did it really happen? Was this my life? God help me.”

      • “they started from an illegal condition”. Quite correct. I knew it was initially “illegal”.

        This is where the long view is a ray of hope. In the short view it looks like freedom is contracting and damn near crushed; the TSA gropes my nuts when I fly, Michelle Obama decides how many cookies a child can eat in school, the NSA is bugging your cell phone (mine too) and archiving Facebook (Facewhat?), some cops seize assets, other cops kick in doors while armed to the teeth, still other cops put up cameras to harvest speeding ticket fees, the Executive is getting used to ignoring laws it doesn’t like, other times the same Executive more or less invents laws through regulation, statistically tied popular votes are recounted until the “right” side wins, the IRS hassles one side of the spectrum on purpose, etc…

        Despair comes easy. Yet this is not the whole view.

        It’s important to remember that home schooling and concealed carry are places where folks in favor of freedom came up off the mat swinging. They started at “doomed” and eventually scored big.

        As for the next “freedom” wave? There’s some flavor of legal pot in 23 states now and momentum is nowhere near abating. Maybe marijuana is on a path to be the next freedom “win”.

        Notice something about all three examples? They’re all coming from the States. Where freedom is rising it’s often won one State at a time, bit by bit in solid wins earned by and popular with the actual populace. Each time the Fed vehemently opposed it and the press predicted mayhem. So the Fed loses and the press goes bankrupt. States were meant to be a check on the Fed and to a certain extent it works. More than that, Americans are stampeding out of sinking “less free states” (I’m looking at you California) and setting up happy homes in rising “more free states” (well played Texas).

        There’s plenty of good mixed with the bad. I’m happy for the good!

  6. Tennessee Budd says:

    AC, re your postscript: I’ve always maintained that a good education is still available in public schools. It’s a bit more difficult, with all the extraneous bullshit, but it’s there. The thing is that the kid has to seek it. I graduated from a small-town school in a rural area in ’83. A lot of those with whom I graduated were & remain ignorant: some were just plain stupid to start with, & some just did what was necessary to pass. If a kid wants to learn, there are teachers who will help. You can’t, & I suspect never could, get it by just doing the assignments given you & not looking further into things.

    • PJ says:

      It’s true that some kids can learn in some government schools, but generally it’s that they learn *in spite* of being there, rather than *because of* being there.

      • Yes, as a “victim” of public school it’s a miracle I can think at all.

        Also it took a while to shake my dread of the system. I remember the first dozen or so years I was out of high school and my feeling of white hot loathing went to the core. If I was at a job site or commuting or whatever and a school bus rolled by I’d almost involuntarily flinch. I was ever so thankful to be out of their reach. The feeling has faded of course, but I promised myself I wouldn’t forget.

    • Yes, it’s possible to learn in a public school, just as it’s possible for a tree to take root and thrive amid rocks. It takes an iron will and an insatiable curiosity. Fortunately many kids have just that.

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