"By pursuing his own interest [every individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good." ~ Adam Smith
Exclusive to STR
December 20, 2007
Although I lack his inherited wealth and good looks and silver tongue and interest in political power, I do have this one thing in common with the late Bobby Kennedy: I don't "see things as they are and [just] say why. I dream things that never were and say why not." So let me take you to a Spring morning soon after 2027, when I awake to the singing of the birds. It's as if they are welcoming mankind to the state of freedom they have always enjoyed, after our long dark journey through the Age of Government; for that is now history. I lie awake for a while, savoring the moment. What do I treasure most?
Each to his own, of course, but I think my greatest or at least my first treasure will be the realization that I'm an owner, at long last. The sheer pleasure of owning will be something in which to luxuriate. I recall sipping a Sam Adams at a certain sidewalk restaurant a few years back with a distinguished fellow Root-Striker, and he was wearing a custom T-shirt that announced "I Love to Own." So do I. The shirt caused quite a few passers-by to double-take, one of whom had been programmed to suppose "ownership" had something to do with owning other people! We tried to set her straight.
Owner of what? First and foremost, of course, I reflect that morning with enormous pleasure that at long last, I own myself. Self-ownership is the birthright of every human being and always has been, but as we know it is absolutely denied in practice by the very existence of government--even small ones. Either one can make all one's own decisions, or one cannot make them all; it's binary. And now, as I lie awake and happy, that day in the late 2020s, I know I can make every single one. Finally, my destiny is all mine to make; I'm wholly responsible for the outcome and wholly free to set the course of my life just as I wish. I'm a full human being! Can there be any greater delight?
I'm the owner, next, I reflect with pleasure, of the home in which I live. Now, there's nothing wrong with renting, on terms mutually agreed. It frees up capital for investing more profitably than in real estate, and now the Age of Government is over, the peculiar leverage that made real-estate investing so profitable has vanished. Absent tax and its mortgage interest deductions, it is no more attractive than other ways to save, while absent zoning laws, its artificial price escalator has ended. However, I chose to own. I saw by 2020 what was coming shortly, so I found the most expensive home I could afford and mortgaged it to the hilt--and at my age, that wasn't easy, I can tell you. I let the payments slip a little--not so much as to alarm the bank, just a little--so that by 2026, there was still a huge amount owing on the loan. But as I'd expected, in 2026 the government finally realized it might be on an irreversible track to extinction because large numbers of vital employees were quitting and a much larger number of taxpayers were paying short or not at all, so tax revenues were falling off a cliff while nobody in his right mind would lend it money by buying its bonds. That forced it to resort in panic to its single remaining source of funds: to print the stuff. So in that year America experienced what Germany did just over a century earlier: hyperinflation. What did I do? I loaded the car trunk with $1 Federal Reserve Notes, drove round to the bank, and paid off every last buck of the $500K owing. When I'd taken out the loan, that was a heavy sum; but when I repaid it in 2026, it was just a heavy load on the car springs. The bank didn't like it, but since they'd signed the mortgage and were a member of the conspiracy that got the words "legal tender" printed on the face of all 500,000 of those bits of paper, it was an offer they couldn't refuse. So here I am, enjoying a fine house that I own, certified free and clear, largely paid for with almost-worthless paper.
When I shed this mortal coil, my heirs will receive it, without deduction of any death tax, of course, for there is no government to levy such a repulsive confiscation. Meantime, there's no government down the road either, to threaten seizure of the house if I should fail to pay their annual serf's tribute, AKA property tax. Now, that's ownership, never before seen in history. What a joy!
I'll also take pleasure, as I lie enjoying the bird songs, in owning money--because money can buy almost everything else one might desire. As I'd expected, the market newly-liberated in 2027 overwhelmingly chose gold as the medium, with a nice array of electronic as well as physical banking services available so that one can easily purchase items priced in milligrams. But when I recently bought my personal helicopter, I took 3 kg of actual gold bars. It's a doddle to fly that thing, there is so much electronic stuff aboard, collision-avoidance technology and so on, that even an old geezer like me is free to move about the country. There are such marvelous places to see, and of course great people to meet, who helped bring E-Day to pass, that it's one of life's greatest pleasures. E-Day, by the way, is how people refer to the happy moment when government finally Evaporated, for want of anyone to carry out its orders.
Another reason I like owning money is that it can buy help--the sort one hires, to keep the house and garden looking tidy. I mentioned it's a big house, so there's a lot to clean, and although there have been a great number of labor-saving devices invented and marketed for just such a purpose, still my old bones creak a bit and it's nice to have real people do the job. Happily there's no shortage of those because government still survives in Mexico and Canada --albeit probably not for long--and so wages there are appalling and residents are only too happy to migrate in the meanwhile to the former US of A and sell their labor where it commands a better price. So you could say I'm waited on, hand and foot. It's a nice feeling, and very suitable for a nonagenarian.
I'm also the owner, lastly in this short account, of a business and take great pleasure in that. I've owned another small business since 1984, and that was a whole lot of fun, though not always profitable, but during the last decade (sensing, again, what was about to go down), I founded a firm to take advantage of the expected changes--and was lucky enough to find some crackerjack people to do most of the work, for those creaky bones of mine are ill-suited to such activity. They were all folk who had graduated from the Academy and had quit their government jobs in the mid-2020s and adapted very well to the free market. The business area I chose was that of cleanup. See, I figured that after government imploded, there would be a humongous mess to sort out, and of course I was right.
Not far away there was a government storage facility containing thousands of fragile canisters of poison gas, and folk living nearby were real nervous about that WMD . So I set out to buy the whole 100-acre site, promising to dispose safely of the government poison. I say "buy," but actually that's not too simple. How does one buy something from an entity that was always fictional and which has now altogether vanished? And which never held true title to the property anyway? It's a tough one, and others have found different ways in different circumstances, but what I did was to advertise my intention heavily, asking that anyone wishing to oppose my claim to the site would come forward and say why. Nobody did, so I registered my property at the local title company, including the promise to clean it up within two years. So the 100 acres cost me nothing.
I then recruited some staff--mostly, people who had worked at the former storage site. They adapted to the new free market very well, and they knew the details of what was where. Bill, particularly, shouldered much of the work and I gave him a good share in my company. Our solution was first to take over an abandoned coal mine 20 miles away that I had heard about, one with unusually deep workings--and that purchase, too, didn't take much gold although it did cost a bit to check out and repair the hoist machinery.
You can guess the rest; we trucked the poison gas to the mine, encased each pallet load in cement and lowered it 4,000 feet into the ground, then sealed the shaft with 100 feet of concrete; the job took 18 months. We then partnered with a home developer to build houses on the 100 acres, which we sold for a very handsome return on my gold, and even Al Gore's kids reckoned we'd done a decent job. Bill and I are now figuring out how to put the surface land at the old mine to profitable use. I feel a tourists' Museum to the Age of Government would fit well, but he says that that market is already getting saturated.
We'll find a way, even if we have to plow it under and grow pot.