All over the world there are people who live in small villages, grow their own food and raise animals for food as well. I am especially interested in how this is possible in eastern Europe. It is possible, of course, if one has access to free subsistence land. And, without the infrastructure of water pipes, gas pipes, or an electric grid, or a sewer system, this is comparable to living on a homestead in the 19th century American frontier. Water is obtained from wells or a spring, heating is by burning wood, and a toilet is an out-house.
I have previously posted: “A documentary of how an American lived for 6 weeks in a Ukrainian village”. This gives you a good feel of how such a life is lived in a Ukrainian village.
But I keep looking for other videos. Recently I watched the following video:
Village Life in Romania
What struck me and stuck in my brain in this video was the comment of an old woman living in a remote village. She said, “”We have everything but we have no money.” She did not mean this literally because she was receiving a small pension from the government. The way I interpret what she said is this: We have all the necessities for life, but we have no money for luxuries. By “luxuries” I mean to include all those things which lessen the burdens of living.
What has puzzled me about village life in eastern Europe is: What about property taxes?
I found the following facts about property taxes in Ukraine. Unlike the property taxes in the United States, and most of Europe, which are based on an assessment of the worth of your property on the real estate market, in Ukraine property taxes are based on the square meter of your dwelling. An apartment dwelling of 60 square meters (645.8 square feet) and a house of 120 square meters (1291.6 square feet) are not taxed at all. And each additional square meter is taxed at the rate of 1.5% of the minimum national living wage. [This is about $216 dollars a month; so, each additional square meter of space would cost about $3.24.] My house in Chicago is 121 square meters and the assessed property value in 2017 was $303,220. My property tax in 2017 was $5,772.80 (this is with an exemption for our ages). In Ukraine, my property tax would have been $3.24
In addition, according to Article 121 of the Ukrainian Land Code each citizen has a right to get land for free. [See: “How to get land in Ukraine for free?”]
So, at least in Ukraine, it is still possible to live without money.
You may be wondering why this an issue?
I view city-life as being precarious. What happens when the infra-structure collapses as it did in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005:
In general, a city is a Technology Trap.
2. A right to roam (as in the Scandinavian countries).
3. A right to free speech (propaganda).
4. A right to make economic and political agreements (assembly).
A “right” is something that is granted by a government or by agreement within a social group (such agreements are implicit, as with customs or traditions, and explicit, as with promises and contracts).
Let me now say something about these desired “rights.”
1. It seems obvious to me that a human animal needs access to some territory in order to survive. This is true of hunter/gatherers (in past sociological works, the technical term for such people was “savages” (without derogatory connotations). It is also true of farmers and herders (again, called by past sociologists “barbarians” or “peasants”). Savages and barbarians were contrasted with city-dwellers or people living in a “civilization.”
As a result of conquests, people were either enslaved or enserfed. Both are forms of depriving people access to free subsistence land. Now people have been “proletarianized” i.e. deprived of access to free subsistence land, without being made either slaves or serfs.
As an example of how a savage or a barbarian can be made into a proletarian, the best example is of the British policy in Africa to impose a “hut tax.” This is equivalent to imposing a camping fee or a property tax. All such laws force people to enter the market economy either directly or indirectly. The system which creates proletarians is called Capitalism.
2. Closely connected with the deprivation to free subsistence land, is the rule which does not allow free camping. In Dade County, Florida (as well as in many other places), it is forbidden by law to camp in public places or to sleep in a parked vehicle, something I personally experienced. Such a law does not allow a homeless person even to sleep in a public space! By contrast to such laws, in the Scandinavian countries everyone is given the right to “roam,” meaning they have the right to travel and camp for free (with some restrictions, such as not to camp next to some home, not to leave behind trash, and only to camp for a limited time).
3. When Karl Popper talked about a “closed” society, he meant primarily a society which does not tolerate free speech. “Free speech” is really “critical speech.” I am under the impression that there is some kind of rule of etiquette not to talk about religion or politics. And it is precisely the criticism of religion and politics that has been censored, often with a death penalty. Consider all the people that have been killed for heresies in Christian countries, and the current Muslim Sharia law which calls for death to an apostate.
When I read about the lives of revolutionaries, what was striking is that they had to have secret societies, and had to smuggle forbidden literature, and when publishing a pamphlet, had to make sure not to catch the eye of some official censor.
4. Closely aligned with the right of free speech, is the right to assemble as in some protest, or to form a workers’ union for the purpose of a strike. Think of the Haymarket affair in Chicago (1886), Bloody Sunday in Russia (1905), Police Brutality during the Democratic Convention in Chicago (1968), , the Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine (2014), and countless others. The Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution in 1917, forbade the existence of any other Party; as did the Fascists and Nazis after gaining power.
Several years ago in Chicago, I was called for jury duty. In the course of questioning potential jurors, the judge asked if anyone had any objections to finding the defendant guilty if the evidence showed him to be in violation of the law. Of all the potential jurors present, I was the only one who raised his hand. The judge then asked me to explain. I answered, “I would not find the defendant guilty if I believed the law to be unjust.” The judge responded: “Who are you to say whether the law is just or not.” I told the judge that I had used the word “believe.” That terminated his questioning of me, and he turned to the attorneys for any objections. They had none. By the way, I never got to be a juror because they picked their quota before reaching me.
I bring this up, because at the time I had no idea whether others had similar thoughts about juries and the law as I had. But in fact this stance is called “jury nullification.”
This reminds me of how a would-be assassin, Vera Zasulich, in 1878 in Russia, was acquitted by a sympathetic jury, despite the fact that she was guilty.
I regard the use of the word “bullshit” as a ubiquitous term of rejection or condemnation. And I regard the most important type of rejection, the rejection of the trivial and irrelevant — that which is not important or valuable. I know that what is valuable or important is relative to what one is trying to achieve. But to achieve anything, one has to be alive — and hopefully, healthy. In other words, the necessary condition of doing anything is being alive. So, even if you are willing to sacrifice your life for some cause such as the well being of your loved ones or your country, you must be alive. So, as I see it, sustaining your life (for whatever cause), is most important, at least as a precondition for anything else. And to talk of what is necessary for life is to talk about human needs (as contrasted with desires).
What everyone needs is air, water, food, shelter and anything which will maintain necessary body temperatures (e.g., clothes, fire, air conditioning). We who live in cities, in houses, condominiums, or apartments know that necessities are bought with money, and so we invariably will think of the necessity of a job to get an income. But is it true that a job is necessary? And if you lose your job or can’t find one, you picture yourself in the plight of the homeless. You imagine getting some kind of welfare, soup kitchen, begging, scrounging through garbage, and sleeping in some tunnel or make-shift shelter.
But for millennia, people have lived off the land — either as hunter/gatherers or as farmers and herders. And many still do. So, the alternative to working for a wage is to live off the land. And to do so one must have free access to land on which to hunt, fish, gather, farm or herd. Does anyone have such free, legal access to land?
Thomas Skidmore, The Rights of Man to Property! Being a proposition to make it equal among the adults of the present generation: and to provide for its equal transmission to every individual of each succeeding generation, on arriving at the age of maturity, 1829.
Here is informative article on patents on life: 8 things you should know about Patents on Life
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, “Why Biotech Patents Are Patently Absurd –
Scientific Briefing on TRIPs and Related Issues,” 2001.
The Supreme Court case which gave the right to patent life forms: Diamond v. Chakrabarty. The Supreme Court case was argued on March 17, 1980 and decided on June 16, 1980. The patent was granted by the USPTO on Mar 31, 1981.[
Capitalism is normally associated with a market economy, as if that’s all that it is. But markets and trade are very old practices which existed in primitive communities, in slave, and in feudal societies. So what differentiates the capitalist market economy from these others? It is the existence of people who do not own land, and are neither slaves, nor serfs, nor vagabonds who are compelled to work, as was the case in Europe after the Black Death, and a practice carried over to the American colonies.
People who are neither slaves nor serfs are euphemistically called “free laborers.” And if these “free laborers” are not working and are homeless, they are modern vagabonds.
Today, the punishment is less severe than being branded or executed – it is a fine and/or incarceration.
I experienced the working of such a law in Dade County, Miami, Florida, in the 70ies. I had traveled to Miami University in my VW camper, and parked legally on a street by the University, and went to sleep in my camper. Well, in the middle of the night I was awakened with rapping on my windows. When I came out I was confronted by a bunch of policemen telling me that it was illegal to sleep in a vehicle in Dade County. I questioned this by offering the scenarios that I could be very tired from driving or even somewhat inebriated and couldn’t drive. The answer was: “We have your license plate recorded and if you do this again, you will be arrested.” I took off to Key West where I parked on a beach and slept in my camper.
Is It Legal to Sleep in Your Car Overnight?
In lieu of deprivation to subsistence land, the community which does this should offer some kind of compensation. Milton Friedman suggested a negative income tax to cover at least food and shelter.
What we in the United States do have is a food stamp program, but not a universal shelter program.
I suggest that there be at least free camping rights around the country – what is called “freedom to roam” (as exists in the European Nordic countries). If this existed then Bertrand Russell’s proposal [in Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, 1919] that each person be allotted a vagabond’s wage would be approximated.