Right to Vagabond

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 this discrimination and unlawfulness in being a vagabond or homeless continues. 

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.

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.