The state has supplanted neighborliness and community with bribery and entitlements, but you know your old dad, 89, is fine for now in his little house at street’s end, and your littlest daughter brings him his morning paper and checks on him three times daily.
The number of Tennesseans drawing direct payments from the state are roughly equal in number to those in the full-time workforce that funds the state. But Wal-Mart gives a teachable moment: With hard work, you declare, your sons will pay their food bill and know nothing of EBT “electronic benefits transfer” cards used by shoppers on the dole.
By David Tulis
Amid the bright noise and flash of commercials you momentarily believe that bargains and shopping renew your soul, save you money and affirm your identity. It is more rewarding to buy name brands at a resale shop because your soul is in the care of a merciful Father in heaven.
The lure of buying on credit seems like such a bargain — you feel a cascade of self-worth with a physical object obtained by sliding a credit card into blinking reader at checkout. But you determine to stick with your dull envelope method or, heaven forbid, write a check.
The automobile has destroyed the neighborhood’s neighborliness, and most people know not the names even of the people directly across the street. But you’ve stopped twice already with children rousted out of their car seats to chat with a retiree six houses away from you, a retired plumber who’s often in his front yard who likes to tell yarns about hunting and his grandkids.
Being debt free is remote and chimerical, and the freedom of movement offered by your credit card appears immediate and gratifying because you can pay later. But you are a plodder and unfashionable, and happy to save the money and resist the impulse to shop.
Heeding your hubbie’s cry for a dinner at Zaxby’s (since today is Friday) appeals greatly, but you know your husband already struggles with his Amex bill. Calculatingly, you chat over a recipe book with your eldest girl just as he is plowing into the kitchen after work with his briefcase and loosened tie knot. She’s going to help you cook.
The American economy has risen into a consumerist social order and an ever-expanding central state that has borrowed every one of its giant programs into existence. It faces a disaster because it cannot stop growing yet needs to be drastically shrunk to pay its bills. You’re tired, and it’s late, and on TV you watch presidential contenders swap catcalls. But you grab the remote and darken the unit because no matter who is president, the country’s prospects are not improveable by any in the lot.
An unmarried sister is an exec with a company car, dresses immaculately, and has constructed a worldview and identity from preassembled name-brand pieces and lines from popular shows. You love her. But you belong at home and don’t mind missing jet setting and fashion fads. You are happy being a wife, homeschool mom and gal pal in a CSTHEA support group.
The U.S. economy is burdened with malinvestment, friction, inefficiency and bureaucracy and the national debt is F$19.04 trillion with the total unfunded obligations passing $61.6 trillion, or F$534,000 per household. A vast edifice of the credit economy is vulnerable to collapse. Your 13-year-old is not the only one reading Whatever Happened to Penny Candy and All Work and No Pay, which give a start at explaining the money mystery.
Your friends want to send their high school seniors to the university, and these playgroup moms fret about money to “pay for college” for the offspring last in line. But Hubbie is rightly anxious about co-signing a student loan for your son, a freshman at UTC, and you dither over a possibly worthless bachelor of science. Are there alternatives to student debt? you wonder. Why college when we have the Internet?
A family at church is getting into prepping for unforeseen disaster, wanting to be able to survive. But if we are going to be preppers, shouldn’t it be so we can help other people?
Social capital & local economy
As a Christian your commitment to your children and family are part of a system whose social capital prospect is incalculable in what many predict is a coming financial maelstrom of which 2008 was a foretaste.Homeschooling creates a base of social capital that will enrich you and your family in the crisis of confidence that will afflict debt-based state capitalism that has hobbled the United States and its people. The national system is ungovernable, unreformable and highly brittle, a kind of economic and political monoculture that does not respond to market forces. The key mechanism in any economy — price — has been rendered unworkable by 10 years of essentially free money created by the Fed’s zero-interest-rate program, which has ballooned debt not just in the U.S., but worldwide.
You are a homeschool mom with a family-oriented perspective. Unlike many other Americans, your educational enterprise gives you an advantage in what may prove parlous times ahead.
Social capital is the benefit that accrues to a people or a city that come from trust, cooperation, reciprocity, the free market and local economy, a form of wealth created when people have an interest in other people and put the prosperity of other people before their own.
Social capital generally is greater where the influence of Christianity is strong. The gospel of Jesus Christ requires love and concern for others, a personal approach to human frailties and needs that are handled privately and personally — apart from state programs for welfare and apart from conflict and judgment. Where the state dictates taxes, agencies and a taxpayer-funded dole to bring a remedy to society, the gospel and a belief in God dictate an alternative.
This alternative works good one soul at a time, one act of mercy at a time, one prayer at a time and so is much more sustainable than any state-sanctioned solution to a social problem.
The sanctifying life of a Christian spreads the riches into small pools of human society. Her obedience to God’s law, her examples of God’s grace and her personal self-sacrifice are the hallmark of the Christian theory. They are the basis of social capital and the creation of wealth long term.
The basis of capital is godly character. Without godly character, little is produced, invested, saved or improved. Self-absorption, consumption, pleasure and folly reign.
Local economy and social capital are destroyed by Washington, D.C.-based entitlement programs. But it’s destroyed by national economy, as well.
Resisting lure of national economy
The homeschool life is an important step for anyone who suspects bad times are ahead. It offers what one writer calls a pathway of resistance to an increasingly haughty and encroaching modern state and its steadily rising discredit, dysfunction, debt and folly.
The life of neighborliness and Christian virtue exemplified in home education is seen as worthless by the controlling state paradigm of consumerism, debt, dependency and the militarization of vast swaths of life. The life in local economy is not monetizeable. It includes social capital — relationships with our financial and social superiors AND inferiors. It encompasses home-cooked meals, meals with friends, cooperative projects done with neighbors and church people, backyard gardens and dozens of other activities that cannot be turned into a fee or profit in centralized market transactions. The identifiers of a decentralized market are “collaboration, sharing, conviviality and generosity,” Charles Hugh Smith says.
Local economy as an idea favors local over national, near over far, small over big, personal over corporate. It favors simple over complex and physical over abstract. It borrows from the incarnation of Christ, who is truly God and truly man, even now in His resurrection, where He sits in His manly body at the right hand of God the Father, making mediation as one of us before a holy God and standing between us sinners and the judgement at the Father’s hand that we deserve.
You could say, in spiritual terms, that local economy is hinted in the Lord’s supper or holy communion, where Christ represents Himself to us in physical form through the bread and wine.
Local economy generally means personal and local, lococentric perspective. Another word for it, for people in the Chattanooga area, is Noogacentrism. Farmer’s markets are typical of local economy here and beyond. Based on cash, they avoid the skimming of credit card fees and the profit stays in local economy rather than being siphoned away to parts unknown.
Where homeschooling fits
Homeschooling is typical of the idea of local economy and free markets. You don’t draw on a free system of services established out of Nashville and funded by taxpayers federally at the state level and locally. You do it yourself, with costs at a minimum, with profit measurable in spiritual, personal and family terms, not in dollars as part of “economic development.”
Local economy bypasses the state and the corporate economy, whether they are flying high on all that easy credit, or in the process of collapsing, freezing up or becoming unresponsive to real needs.
The homeschool economy invites an increasingly cash-oriented means of payment. In it you avoid financialization, that abstractification of the economy with its credit cards, data mining and surveillance, a system that turns every interaction into a transaction nibbled at by fees paid to corporations. You pay cash at your favorite local restaurant to save its owner the national credit card tax. You seek cash relationships with service providers such as Drs. Matthew Hitchcock, Charles Adams, David Redd, Kerry Friesen and others in Chattanooga who have shifted out of insurance and government to the concierge, subscription or retainer model of direct health care, excising the inflationary middleman.
In working toward the cash economy, you abstain from the bad-foods at fast-food joints that are supplied by giant agribusinesses and packaged food suppliers whose profitmaking includes the benefits of GMOs and sprayed crops.
In a local economy framework in which you identify with a geographical location and the people sharing that spot of earth, you take conscious steps to avoid the services and benefits of the state, just as you avoided the free schools of Hamilton County with its 43,000 pupils.
“Security flows from resilience, self-reliance, decentralized, diversified sources of income and abundant social capital,” Mr. Smith says.
In rejecting dealings with major “too-big-to-fail” banks, you turn to local lenders for your dollar transactions and try crowd-funding to raise money or capital. You embrace the diversity of a local business network and town, shunning the financialized monoculture of national economy. You and your husband think in terms of divesting nationally and investing locally, getting out of debt and investing in little businesses started by your children or perhaps a neighbor or man at your church. These refuse to support the nation’s financial aristocracy.
“Embrace self-directed coherent plans and construct resilient diverse inner ecology of identity and meaning,” Mr. Smith says. “Build a social ecology of positive, active, collaborative, non-pathological people of like mind and spirit. Be powerful via resistance, not powerless via complicity.”
Progressivism makes isolated citizens subject to the state, so consumerism puts them in the thrall of distant corporations and concentrations of capital served by the news and advertising of six major media companies.
Quirky alternatives: you are free to choose
Institutional schooling and national economy bring poverty of assets and poverty of spirit. “The relationship of the consumer to capital and the dependent to the State are both hollow, inauthentic, artificial; neither can possible nurture nor renew an authentic self and identity, or establish a coherent internal world of meaning. Acceptance of an authoritarian expansionist State and debt-based consumerism yields an extreme of pathological inner poverty; diversity is replaced by monoculture, and the shriveled self is vulnerable to disorientation, derangement and ill-health.”
You may get around on errands with children in your sedan or minivan. But your husband’s simple act of riding a bicycle to work shows he is far along the local economy pathway. The ideal of local economy sees his doing his own thing less as a “health nut” oddity or personal “greenie”-like quirk, but a step that is part of a revolt against the status quo.
Hubbie’s riding to work on an old 12-speed defies dependence on the oil complex and its enforcer, the state. It frees him from the sick care model of healthcare by keeping him fit. In a car he is in self-controlled media-centric bubble consuming digital music or news. Riding a bike makes it easier for him to stop along the way and talk to people, those who are part of local economy and the real world.
Sources: Charles Hugh Smith, Resistance, Revolution, Liberation[;] a Model for Positive Change (Oftwominds.com, 2012), 224 pp. I highly recommend Mr. Smith’s work here at at his website, oftwominds.com.