Tag Archives: communism

Chill(y) Camping, Southwest Style

18 Jan

Last weekend, I had to go down to Tucson, and the friend I was going to stay with ended up flaking on me. So instead of a lot of driving, I decided to camp. Now doing this in January, even in sunny Arizona, sounds like a recipe for disaster. But I decided I wanted to have a good story, so…

Now even the US Forest Service thinks camping in the winter is a bad idea, so you can’t reserve a campground around Mt. Lemmon (which overlooks Tucson) until April. Most of the commercial campgrounds are designed for RV’s, so that left me in a pickle. Then I discovered Hipcamp, which is basically AirBnB for camping, and listed a couple locations north of where I wanted. One of them was listed as a property that had a very hippie vibe. Even though that’s the exact opposite of what I am, I thought, “Okay, I don’t need to sing kum-by-ya, I just need a camp.” So I signed up.

I drove down on Friday, driving past Florence, Arizona, where I passed no less than six roadside stands selling Trump merchandise. Even in the most conservative town, I thought this was a little overboard. (Discovered later that the orange one was showing up for a rally on Saturday.) After two wrong turns (my own fault), I reach the campsite, and no one answers the door. Thankfully, there were a couple helpful folks, including an older man named White Wolf, who took me down to the campsite and guided me how to drive in.

And that’s when I realized, this wasn’t a “hippie theme,” this was a hippie commune. In fact, as I explored around, this commune had been around since the 60’s. It was a commune that had seen better days, but it was not dead. My campsite was next to two fenced off gardens, neither of which was prospering. There were about four houses on this tract of desert, a couple of RV’s, and… uh, maybe ten shacks in various stages of repair. Some had solar panels, furnaces, ovens… some were locked up, waiting for the next resident. However, there was electricity (through a chain of extension cords), water (pipes had been installed a long time ago), hot showers (for two minutes at a time), and even though we were in the desert, plenty of firewood. Turns out there was so much dead cacti (which burns fast and makes perfect kindling), dried weeds, and dead bushes that I could keep my rock circle going. (Though it did make me worry about setting off a brush fire.)

Because it’s a commune, maybe of the residents took their evening walk past my campsite, so I got to meet several of them. I saw more folks in the distance as I wandered around, so I’d estimate somewhere between 15-20 people lived on the property, from young kids to elderly; a good age spread. I met four large dogs, including Ginger (the white dog pictured here), who apparently was the neighbor’s dog, but enjoyed hanging out here more! Most of my conversations were short, but I got the impression that it wasn’t a classic commune, where everyone worked together to improve the property. They may have started like that, but now, the commune aspect was “you get to live here rent-free.” If you want to eat, though, you have to work somewhere off property. I met one gal who had just gotten off her night shift job, and I knew there was no need for a night shift on property. The camping and the yurt (which you can rent on AirBnB) helped pay the bills.

All in all, it was a very nice place to camp in a friendly community. However, it wasn’t like the residents were swarming you… they left you alone mostly. It was cloudy and getting chilly, so I thought I’d throw some extra blankets over my (rather cozy) one-person tent. After I enjoyed reading my book near the fire, the weather was dropping down to 45 F, so I put the coals out and went to bed.

How did that turn out? Well… I’ll have to tell you about it tomorrow!

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

3 Apr

It’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot: “We need to change this capitalist system!” Yet no one who tells me that can tell me what replaces it. Or how we replace it. Just that it’s unjust. But we know what happens next; there’s plenty of examples of what replaces it.

Now, I’m going to have real trouble being fair to this viewpoint, mostly because it’s hard to nail down these idealists on what kind of system they’re actually working for. If you could force one of these folks to actually drill down on what they want, they’d probably say “a socialized system, like Europe, where the even poorest are taken care of.” This is said by people who obviously have never seen how the poor live in Europe. They may have gone backpacking, stayed in a youth hostel, and thought… “you know, this ain’t bad. It’s not a private room, but everyone seems happy.” That was their vision of socialism.

Search the word “banlieue.” This is the French public housing neighborhoods, many of them filled up with immigrants from former French colonies in Africa, many of them Muslim. The same activists who tell you that “America is the most racist country on Earth” wouldn’t notice that French people won’t even hire black immigrants, regardless of how many university degrees they hold. So a man with a Master’s in Banking has to flip falafel. (We have the same problem here, except the man has a Master’s in Fine Arts, and he’s white.) That is socialist France.

Okay, maybe they weren’t thinking France, they were thinking Norway. Their public housing is immaculate (well, at least this picture from four years ago is), prisoners can work normal jobs outside before returning to jail in the evening, and they welcome immigrants from all over the world. Sounds perfect, right? Then if it works in Norway, why doesn’t it work in France? First off, a lot less people. There are 5.3 million people in Norway; 65 million in France. Second, Norway has oil, France doesn’t, so there’s a lot more money to be spent per person. And unlike the US, they don’t spend a quarter of their budget on the military.

As an activist-y friend of mine once said, “if we cut the military by a third, we could pay for every social program in America!” He would be right… for a while. The problem with social programs is that costs don’t stay flat. Medicaid, our version of socialized medicine, now costs state governments anywhere from one quarter to one third of their budgets, depending on where you live. If you can depend on high-quality healthcare that you don’t have to pay for, why would you put money into a insurance premium? I certainly haven’t paid a premium in five years and I’m not even on Medicaid! And as anyone will tell you who’s on it, Medicaid isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Okay, maybe the activists don’t mean socialism, they mean communism. After all, if everyone pulls their weight, we can work together and achieve amazing things! Let’s just… walk on past examples of how that doesn’t work, and let’s go to examples where it did. The best example of communism at work is the kibbutz. Israeli pioneers built communal farm communities where there was nothing (except poor Palestinian share-croppers) and built a lush paradise. Working together, everyone gets shares of the kibbutz’s profits, old and young people are taken care of, and they’re prosperous.

It’s the prosperity that eventually defeated communal living. Today, kibbutzim are still there, and the share holders are prosperous, but they have to hire non-citizen Indians and Pinoys to actually run the farms. The kibbutz’s kids… left. Why stay on the farm when there was college to go to, and an exciting city, and so many opportunities other than driving a plow? So just like the US, they imported a brown underclass to do the jobs they didn’t want to do.

The Amana Colonies are the best example of the communal experiment. In 1856, these not-Amish (but they look like them) moved out to Iowa and created seven villages that created one of the most successful true communist communities united by faith. The experiment ended in 1931, where the Great Depression combined with local disasters caused the community to incorporate. The corporation is still there today… but the people aren’t. Most of them left or died out; today, there is only one of their churches remaining, attended mostly by elderly people.

So what’s my point? I’ve given some of the best examples of what activists on the left are asking for… and they fail every time. Capitalism has been around for over two hundred years and it’s still here. It’s not pure capitalism, there’s plenty of government control, but it has lifted more people out of poverty than anything else known to man. “But we still have poor,” you say. Tell that to the Nigerian working class who lives with dirt floor and an open fire to cook on. Our poor have big screen TV’s; our homeless have smartphones. As an Indian national once told me, “in America, the poor are fat.”

So be careful what you ask for, my idealistic friends, you might get it. Of course, I could be just full of crap–what do you think? Am I glossing over some important points? (I am.) Let me know in the comments below! And after you type, check out my books, which are not set in utopias, despite the fact that many of them are set in libertarian worlds. However, if $1.99 is too much to pay, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

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