Within our relationships, as preppers, let’s look at the concept of true independence. It applies to us in our preparedness pursuits and in life in general. While we, of course, avoid many dependencies, what may surprise you is that it requires we cultivate certain dependencies.
Fourth of July or Independence Day?
Here’s a question: Do you wish your friends and family a “Happy 4th of July” or a “Happy Independence Day?” For me, I always make a point of calling this holiday “Independence Day”. I want to remember and remind others that all the fireworks; red, white, and blue; and backyard cookouts are about one thing and one thing only– the celebration of and thankfulness for our independence.
The Concept of “Independence”
Unfortunately, I have been dismayed to find that many people don’t like the word “independence”. “No one can be independent,” they say. “We all rely on others.” Independence is even used sometimes as a pejorative term.
As we celebrate our nation’s 241st birthday, I’d like to take a moment to speak up on behalf of this less-loved word. I’d like to present an idea about what independence truly is and explain how we can work to achieve it.
What We Are Dependent Upon Defines Our Level of Freedom
First, let me concede that yes, we are and will always be dependent beings. “No man is an island,” said John Donne, and he was correct. However, it is who or what we are dependent on that defines whether we are free or enslaved.
True independence is achieved by cultivating horizontal dependencies and avoiding vertical dependencies.
Horizontally Dependent Relationships
A horizontal dependency exists when both parties depend, mutually and equally, on each other. As a result, neither party is able to coerce or violate the other, as it is a symbiotic relationship. Examples of horizontal dependencies include a business and a client; brothers and sisters; neighbors; and a husband and wife.
Vertically Dependent Relationships
A vertical dependency, on the other hand, is where one party is highly dependent and the other party depends only a little, or not at all, on the relationship. One party’s need is great, while the other party’s need is limited. One party becomes the giver while the other is the receiver. Examples of vertical dependencies include bureaucratic governments and citizens; parent and a newborn; and lender and creditor.
Vertical dependency leads to slavery, while horizontal dependency leads to freedom. I celebrate independence not as a declaration that I am free from my fellow man, but that I am free from any oppressive power, tyrannical force, or earthly master.
Our Founding Father’s Fight For Independence
When our founding fathers fought for independence, they were never intending to shun all forms of dependency. They knew they would continue to depend on each other and on the fledgling nation’s allies and trading partners. No, their war for independence was against vertical dependence on the Crown, who taxed but gave no representation and who demanded allegiance but gave no respect. The relationship between Britain and the Colonies was a true vertical relationship. As Richard Henry Lee wrote:
“Resolved: That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
The Declaration of Independence was simultaneously the dissolution of the vertical dependency between the Colonies and the Crown and a commitment to a horizontal dependency between the states. Benjamin Franklin summed it up best when he said:
“If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.”
The Ideal Government
The Founding Fathers also included this iconic phrase in the Declaration of Independence:
“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
This statement evokes an image of a government and governed who are horizontally dependent on each other, as opposed to the usual relationship between state and citizen, which is typically a steep, vertical one. This is the ideal state of government, which our ancestors fought for and which we are still fighting to realize today against the inevitable creep of tyranny.
Apart from his or her vertical dependence on the God and Creator of the universe, a man or woman does not need to have any one-sided relationships where all the power held by one party. When you are dependent on someone powerful, you are not free. When you are dependent on someone who is also dependent on you, risk and fear of harm are reduced, because your provider cannot hurt you without hurting themselves.
Here’s what the average person’s vertical/horizontal independence/dependence might look if graphed on a chart:
A Hypothetical Family: The Johnsons
To explore this idea further, let’s examine the lives of a hypothetical average, suburban, middle class, American family. We will call them the Johnson family. Mr. Johnson is a high school teacher. Mrs. Johnson is an associate department head at a tech firm. They have two children, who are both enrolled in the public school system. With their combined income, the Johnson family is very well off by middle class standards. They have a spacious townhome in a great neighborhood. He drives a Prius, and she drives a Lexus. They have a newly renovated kitchen with marble countertops facing their open floor plan living room with its 52-inch 4K screen. The Johnsons are living the American dream, at least as it has come to be understood. But are they really among the free men and women? Let’s scrutinize their lives for evidence of either vertical or horizontal dependencies.
How the Johnson’s Obtain Food, Water, and Shelter
First off, let’s look at the Johnson’s dependencies related to the basic human needs: food, water, and shelter. The Johnsons get their water from the municipal water supply, which they pay for every month. They may purchase their food from the grocery store, a farmer’s market, or a restaurant. However, in each instance, they pay for it with money. Like virtually every middle class American family, the Johnsons don’t own their home outright. Instead, they have a mortgage from a bank. Every month, a portion of their pay check goes to ensure that the roof stays over their head. What’s the common denominator in the providing of all the Johnson’s needs? It’s cash. Cash provides everything the Johnsons need. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson depend on their jobs for money, and they depend on the economy to convert that money into food, water, and shelter.
Food, Water, and Shelter In the Primitive State
This is a sharp diversion from man in the primitive state– the state we could revert to in the event of a crisis scenario. In the state of nature, man must procure food, water, shelter, and security organically by actually going out and acquiring those specific things. In a civilized state, man still works, but he does so in an artificial setting. At his job, he earns a token called money, which he trades for food, water, shelter, and anything else he needs. The extent to which a person depends on income for sustenance, or the actual procurement of those things, is a sliding scale that measures how “down to earth” or close to the supply chain the individuals in that society are.
Self-Sufficiency v. Consumerism
The Johnson’s lives are primarily sustained by income. Not only is this a departure from the primal state, it is also a departure from the habits of their middle class predecessors. Historically, the middle class has been defined by self-sufficiency, or the ability to provide for one’s own needs without necessarily having to earn tokens (money) and trade those tokens for goods. Essentially, self-sufficiency is the opposite of consumerism. The consumer buys the things he wants.
The self-sufficient person makes, procures, grows, or establishes them. In the past, the middle class have been the ones with the infrastructure, knowledge, ability, and time to provide for themselves without being forced to earn enough money to pay for everything in cash. This separated the middle class from the wealthy, who could solve every problem with money and never needed to get their hands dirty. The poor was a class whose hardships forced them to rely on benefactors.
A Self-Sufficient Middle Class Is a Hedge Against Tyrrany
“We would go into town to get coffee and sugar,” says my neighbor— a lady who has watched my town turn from a farm field into suburbia. “Everything else we made or grew right here.”
That used to be the way of the middle class; they were self-sufficient. Coincidentally, it’s no wonder totalitarian forms of government, such as Marxism, hinge on the elimination of the middle class. Anybody who is self-sufficient is an impediment to tyrannical government, since the self-sufficient are typically immune to the combination of fear mongering, protection rackets, and utopian promises that define the incipient stages of tyranny. Marx new well how difficult it would be to enslave the resilient middle class. A vibrant, self-sufficient middle class will always be a hedge against tyranny.
Today’s Middle Class Has Drifted
Unfortunately, today’s middle class has drifted far from these self-sufficient roots. Today, the middle class plays by the same rules as the wealthy: pay for everything you need with money; don’t get your hands dirty. But without the resources of the wealthy, it’s no surprise the middle class in America is struggling and working ’round the clock to sustain their income-fueled lifestyles.
Assessing the Johnson’s Dependency On Income
Returning to the Johnsons – is their dependence on income a horizontal, or a vertical dependency? In some cases, an employer depends on an employee to a great extent. Examples are high demand, high risk, or high skilled professions, or small companies where one worker may make or break the business. High level positions – typically held by the wealthy and not the Johnsons – are also positions of critical importance to a company. But in most cases, for all the benefits of capitalism, the average, mid-level worker bee is largely expendable to the company. If he quits or is fired, the company will quickly find a replacement.
Therefore, the Johnson’s dependence on income for food, water, and shelter is a steeply vertical dependency, making them entirely dependent on employers who may in turn be ambivalent about them. Add to this the fact that the Johnson’s health insurance almost assuredly stems from their employer, and we can quickly surmise that in the arena of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, the Johnsons have no true independence.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part one of a two part entry for Round 71 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
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- An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
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- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
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- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
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- Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
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Round 71 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.
Upvote for best article in this round!
Some truly excellent points in this article.
Happy Independence Day, all!
For years I’ve read about how the middle class has been declining. But, I really did’nt know why. Thank you for this epiphany! It explains alot!
1) Our stupid historians speak of Jefferson’s political philosophy as “agarianism” — a love of farming as a mystical source of virtue. But Jefferson’s real point was independence — a farmer is an independent businessman whose self-sufficiency gives him the freedom to resist economic coercion. Unlike 60 percent of Americans today — and the remaining 40 percent are unemployed.
2) Jefferson himself foresaw the danger. He strongly urged inserting a ban on economic monopolies into the new Constitution. In his Dec 20, 1787 letter to James Madison, Jefferson noted:
“I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe. Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.”
Ref: “The Papers of Thomas Jefferson”; Vol 12; Julian Boyd ed, Princeton NJ, 1955.
3) The fact that 99 percent even of our college graduates are deeply ignorant of important facts — and ignorant of the lessons of history that guided the design of the Constitution — shows how far the designers of our K12 curriculum have succeeded in destroying Jefferson’s hope for the education of the voters. Of course, those designers are largely anonymous and have no accountability to either the parents, students, or voters.
4) Jefferson’s letters to/from other Founders during the Constitutional Convention –when he was in Paris — are well worth reading. Being more private they are on occasion more enlightening than the propaganda that was crafted in the Federalist Papers to promote acceptance of the new Constitution.
A somewhat strange article in some ways. There is no “self sufficiency” it is a dream and deception. How often is it defined by purchasing PV systems to get off the grid. Or living out in the boonies but needing to own a car. I have also heard this concept defined as “simplifying your life” and that at least makes more sense. I kind of acknowledgement and acceptance that we aren’t and cannot be self sufficient but merely “play” at it.
Some folks may “play” at being self-sufficient…but many of us are actively working at being as self-sufficient as possible…because very soon, I believe it will be necessary. Developing the “horizontal relationships” the author talks about will allow all those involved to greatly benefit and to thrive rather than simply survive.
And by “self-sufficient” I don’t mean just my nuclear family…but the “horizontal relationships” the author refers to. Local (within walking distance) family, friends and neighbors that you can work with to improve everyone’s lives. One family may have a market garden, another a row-crop farm, another has an orchard and berry patch and another hunts and fishes well…each shares/trades the excess of what they produce so everyone benefits with a wider variety of foodstuffs. Or one family has chickens and another has dairy goats and a third has pigs…by trading excess, everyone has a variety – and it lessens the risk if one type of livestock has a problem in one year. One person may be a blacksmith, another a mechanic, another a herbalist and trade services, products and foodstuffs back and forth. And share big projects…barn/house-raisings, large scale hunting/butchering, harvests, etc. Rather than trading money for something – you trade something you produce or can do for what you want or need. And the “trades” aren’t always immediate this for that…you may have excess something now and your neighbor may have something excess later – with good relationships, it doesn’t matter because you know what you give now will be returned in kind/value at some point later.
This is what I consider “self-sufficiency”…doing as much as you can to cover the basic needs of life – because when it comes right down to it that is all you can count on. But also produce excess to your needs or develop skills to enhance your life and chances of survival by developing these horizontal relationships to avail yourself of a wider range of foodstuffs, products, services and equipment.
Read history…it lays out how all this was done before money became the main medium of exchange. Everyone with land used to do it this way, before the industrial revolution turned most of us into wage slaves. Those without land were peasants, serfs or slaves – BUY ARABLE LAND if you don’t want to end up in another “vertical relationship”, dependent on someone else for your very survival!
Where did your Independent middle class Farmers got the land, the tools, clothing, animals, cooking Equipment…from?
They made them — or their neighbors did.
I fail to see the attraction of our modern system –which has plunged us into $20 TRILLION of debt — $10 Trillion incurred in just the past 8 years. A system that will collapse without a $1 Trillion per year military budget — and that is not counting the American blood shed in endless foreign wars. A system in which 1 percent of the population seizes 25% of the national income by bribing the Congress.
In just 8 years, our NIIP — the net debt we owe to foreigners after subtracting any debt they owe to us — has soared. From minus $2 Trillion a few years ago to over $8 TRILLION –over 40% of GDP –today. Have you seen our lying news media telling our voters anything about that?
What happens if the foreigners turn off the spigot? Our politicans have sold our children and our grandchildren into slavery. But, hey, Bill Clinton picked up $200 million in “speaking fees” from his grateful billionaires and Obama seems on his way to doing the same — as soon as he can return from all those lavish vacations.
No, they didn´t made them.
Their neighbours maybe did, when these neighbours were craftsmen not Farmers.
These craftsmen needed ressources, materials, Tools etc. some can be locally found and produced, others are not.
Not even in the stone age could a Family be Independent, it was too much work to do.
That $20 trillion went to welfare and other free stuff and wasn’t because we have a modern system.
The military budget isn’t $1 trillion but the welfare budget is between $1.2 – $1.8 trillion. But I often wonder when an American complains about the military if they believe in defense or not. Would you stand up and fight or run away?
Later time I checked it is not foreigner invaders who are holding me up at gunpoint and taking my income. It’s something called the IRS — any way to get the Army to defend me against them?
And if the money is for “defense” then why do Chester PA, Camden NJ, Flint MI etc etc have some of the highest homicide rates on the planet? Who is defending those Americans? Cause they ain’t being shot at by Muslims from the far side of the world.
Although it is an interesting question — if Putin made it to the beaches of New Jersey (with a military budget about 1/10 of ours) then would he screw us any worse than what our own elites are already doing?
Saving is another way to reduce your dependency. Even if it’s only a day’s wages, it insulates you from future problems. Living below what you bring in makes it possible to plan for more independence in the future. ThoDan: A little research might help answer your question. Clothing etc. does not have to come from Walmart. The point is to have your dependency on society offset by your contributions to same.
No they come from the fields of Linnen, Cotton, from the wool of sheep…and then were woven into fabric, and so on till somebody made clothes out of them.
The Point is the farmer is not necessarily more Independent, than the weaver, the tanner, the doctor and the teacher.
1) If the weaver, the tanner or the doctor does not give the farmer a reasonable deal, the farmer can either do things himself or find someone else.
Certainly the farmer does not live in fear of expressing his political opinions for fear the weaver will fire him.
2) Contrast that with the modern American wage slaves whose families can be plunged into deep poverty if the wage slaves are fired or laid off for any reason — or for no reason at all. Employment at will.
3) Obama’s Director of National Intelligence Clapper lied through his teeth –under oath — to us and the US Congress about massive NSA surveillance of the American People. Obama and the Congress’ Intel Committees supported that lie with their silence. We only found out the truth because a young man named Edward Snowden tried to warn us. Yet what happened to Snowden?
4) Disaster after disaster strikes America because the people who know what is going on can’t speak up for fear of their family having to go on welfare. That is why 4500 soldiers died in Iraq to seize nonexistent nukes — and all too real oil deposits.
5) Did no one on Wall Street see the looming subprime crisis in 2007 while Alan Greenspan was telling us and Congress that the problem was behind us? Someone sure did — the yield curve inverted in January 2007. Long term Treasury bond yields nosedived BELOW short term rates as a tsunami of money flowed into the Treasury bonds that are the best safe harbor against second Great Depression.
1 If he can find someone else, if or vice versa.
J.E’s ideas are not radical — they are old. Very old.
They have always been resisted –with violence — by the Rich. And by the prostitutes of the Rich — people who marvel at the deceit of the news media fail to realize that the reporters, pundits and editors have no other skills than lying. No other way of earning a living. Of course, that violence and deceit is what destroyed the Roman Republic upon which ours was modeled. Those who blame Julius Caesar never look at what and who created Julius:
Does anyone think THIS is sustainable?
Anyone seen billionaire Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post telling the voters about this during Obama’s term?
Enjoyed how the writer framed up this topic and the rationale for independence – looking for the next installment.