Financial Independence: The Utility of Import-Export

Note: The following is an article by TVP host, Kyle Rearden, published on his blog, The Last Bastille


“I often encourage folks who are preparedness-minded to develop a second income stream with a home-based business. Once you have that business started, then start another one…[a] successfully recession-proof home-based business is likely to be one in which the demand for your goods and services is consistent – even in a weak economy…[k]eep in mind that if you choose publishing or another mail-order venture selling something compact and lightweight, then you can take advantage of a national or even global market. But if you are selling a service or a relatively bulky or heavy hand-crafted item, then your market will be essentially local, so choose your venture wisely.”

James Rawles

Good Americans within the servile society typically “commute” five days a week in order to work eight hours per day. These “workers” often stop by grocery stores or similar businesses on their way home from work so as to pick up dinner every other day, or at least a few times a week. The problem with such a lifestyle is that the frequency of traveling to and fro on the government’s “public” roads increases the vulnerability to coercion of said motorists due to traffic stops.

Imagine, if you will, a noticeably different lifestyle whereby you travel once a week to a job site and work overtime while you’re there, and by the end of the week you go home. Similarly, you only shop for groceries once every few weeks or even several months out. Notice, too, that it’s not just the frequency of exporting labor and products relative to importing knowledge and supplies, but also the context of how you’re doing it.

Financial independence (FI) could be defined as making a livelihood without a steady employer. Absent a nine-to-five Just Over Broke (a “JOB”), many Good Americans literally wouldn’t know what to do with themselves, sadly because they are often indoctrinated to believe that their sense of self-worth is tightly bound to the consumerist fantasy of developing a “career,” an idea that has little to do with survivability and much to do with Stockholm Syndrome with the servile society itself. Often, FI can take the form of freelancing (working for a variety of clients on a per assignment basis) and/or intensive saving (a form of frugality whereby you save 50% – 80% of your take-home-pay).

In 1971, Rayo discussed whether it was possible, or even desirable, to achieve personal freedom through wealth accumulation. He said:

Freedom through wealth? Some have said that the best way to achieve personal freedom is to first become wealthy. Here are some contrary points: Someone pursuing wealth tends to get caught up in associated status games and neglect his real objective. Psychological paralysis sets in. Of freedom-seekers I have known who tried to get rich, most have not been successful, perhaps because they know too much to play the games with the same dedication and intensity as do the Middle Amerikan strivers. The few wealthy libertarians of who I know first became wealthy, then libertarian. One is more apt to be successful, and perhaps even get rich, doing something he enjoys doing which he can do without contradicting his values, than he is doing supposedly high-income activities which he doesn’t enjoy.”

As is with everything else involved with vonuence, function determines form, means determine endshow you go about achieving something is just as important as what that something is. If accumulating wealth were done in such as a manner as to make you less vonuer, then it’s not vonu, plain and simple. Rayo went on to observe that:

“At present there is relatively little vonu to be purchased; it’s mostly do-it-yourself. Most high-income professions are narrowly specialized: dependent upon an economy of tens of millions of people. But only a relatively few people (thousands, at most) are apt to vonu themselves in the foreseeable future; the demand in a small market is for broad skills. Most of the relatively free people in North America today have relatively low incomes: ‘hippies,’ hobos, some Indians, some Blacks. Historically, Jews have been more successful than Gypsies at surviving and maintaining heterodox cultures, despite their greater emphasis on wealth. (For what it’s worth, Gypsies have enjoyed better ‘public relations’.)”

What this suggests is that FI is not synonymous with being “rich.” Some individuals who could be said to enjoy FI are “wealthy,” whereas others who are truly financially independent are not millionaires. FI is less concerned with how much disposable income you have than with how dependent you are upon others for your livelihood; frequently, a single source of income does make you more vulnerable to coercion than having multiple sources of income, for if one source dries up, you can fall back on the others until you get that one replaced. Rayo admitted:

“Personal experience: I have only moderate savings; I’m not wealthy by most standards. But my achievement of vonu has been limited much more by time and personal skills than by money. There are many products and services which I could and would purchase if they were available; they aren’t. Of course someone already into a skill or business whereby they can earn much money easily may well be advised to keep at it for a few years and build a nest-egg. But, for most vonuists, I don’t think wealth is worth much effort.”

Nest eggs, simply put, are batches of accumulated capital. Granted, building up a nest egg is usually proof of intensive saving, yet capital accumulation wasn’t done here so as to eventually get to the point of building your own investment portfolio, which Rayo didn’t address. The takeaway here is that wealth does not equal freedom; you cannot buy your way to freedom in much the same way you cannot buy yourself into romance, as it were.

A year later in 1972, Rayo explicated upon import-export, particularly as it related to FI. Just to reiterate, when conducting import-export, vonuans import supplies and knowledge while exporting labor and products back out to the servile society. Rayo remarked that:

“A vonu home seems essential for psychological wellbeing. And domestic activities are relatively easy to vonu; they do not require elaborate equipment or deep involvement with outsiders. In contrast, earning money takes up only a relatively small part of one’s life. At $2 per hour clear, 300 hours of city labor – one month with overtime – will pay for eight months of vonu living. And earning money usually requires export – difficult to accomplish without interference. So vonu should begin at home…[w]hile it’s nice for a vonu home to be financially productive, this isn’t essential.”

Given the annual inflation percentage rate between 1972 and 2017 was 4.01%, then that would mean that $2 in 1972 would be equivalent to about $11.75 today (still above minimum wage, but not by much); so, if you pulled 80 hours per week for about a month (or 40 hours per week for seven and a half weeks), you’d rake in around $3,525 these days. Even as expressed in today’s “ferns,” living on ~ $3,500 for eight months is mighty impressive for proving that it’s possible to survive below the federal poverty threshold, and thus not incur an income tax liability. Rayo advised:

Have savings before moving. During your first year or two in a wilderness or vonu environment, expect to be occupied developing shelter and learning vonu-living skills. You will have little time for money earning even if opportunities are at hand.”

This is to encourage those becoming vonuer to initially develop nest eggs before trying their hand at strategic relocation. Rayo continues:

Earn money by exporting labor at first. Don’t expect to earn money immediately gathering herbs or dredging gold if you have time left from home development. What opportunities are there may be for wilderness income require considerable skills to pay off. Scrounging for jobs in a small town is a bad scene. Get jobs in cities (if that is what you have done); preferably temporary employment which fits your living patterns. If you have a freemate or children, let them remain at your vonu home while you ‘commute’ weekly or seasonally. Why subject them to bludg, smog and chance of nuclear incineration?”

Again, this is the significance of import-export with the servile society, which would entail some degree of interfacing with city rats. Thankfully, due to the growth and expansion of the Internet, conducting import-export through the freighting and communication services of the servile society have never been easier (think e-commerce like eBay or Amazon), yet the issue of dealing with the transportation of personnel is still at large and unresolved. Truth of the matter is that FI increases mean-time-to-harassment (MTH) by deprogramming Good Americans of the very antiquated notion known as so-called “job security” in the first place, which is nothing more than a consumerist fantasy.

The connection between freelancing and intensive saving becomes quite pronounced as Rayo further described it:

Don’t change vocations until you achieve a vonu home. If you can clear $2 or more per hour in your present (non-vonu) job, you will probably achieve vonu quickest by staying with it until you have enough capital to cut loose for two years. Don’t spend time getting into a slightly better non-vonu occupation still dependent on that society if you expect to live most of your life out of that society. A do-at-home vocation such as freelance writing or mail-order selling is best developed after you have a vonu home.”

Yet again, $2 back then became approximately $11.75 in 2017, so Rayo isn’t insisting that you earn $40,000 a year (~ $20/hr), because he’s presuming you’re not spending most of it even on the costs of living; in other words, Rayo’s suggestion for achieving FI relies more upon living close to the bone rather than “hustling,” as it were. His recommendation that an individual could become vonuer by initially saving $10,575 as a nest egg to live on for two years removes the age-old excuse that freedom or liberty is unachievable because it costs too many ferns to accomplish it. He goes on to say that:

Be wary of get-rich-easy schemes. ‘If he’s so smart, why ain’t he already rich? If he is rich, why does he want my pocket change?’ Not all such schemes are conscious swindles; many a promoter sincerely believes he has found a unique way to financial independence. But, unless he is already affluent, you don’t know that it worked. Even if it worked for him it may not for you – opportunities change. But even if you could make it work, it probably requires a heavy psycho-investment/involvement with the coerced economy; more than would a work a-day job.”

Not only does Rayo explicitly refer to FI, but he also stresses why infomercial claims are no reliable path to FI, for actual FI relies more upon earning more income while also cutting expenses over a period of time more so than anything else (in much the same way there are no “get-fit-easy” products that reliably work, for achieving physical fitness relies more upon exercising more while also eating less over a period of time more so than anything else; both FI and good physical fitness require consistent discipline). Rayo further said:

“Tactics for saving: Make a ‘crash’ program of it – save a high proportion of income for a short time. Take savings off the top – a certain percentage of income – and live on what is left. Concentrate on big or continuing expenses – usually shelter, transportation and food, but also be careful that ‘small luxuries’ don’t get big. Double up with others to save rent. Drive little…[m]ake part of your monetary savings untouchable until required capital is accumulated. Don’t rationalize that such-and-such item is really preparation for vonu (unless you already have much experience in your intended life-style and know exactly what equipment and supplies you will need). Start outfitting at a local dump (discarded blankets, clothes, utensils), then try Salvation Army Stores, etc. You can gradually replace with better equipment after you are vonu, as you learn what you really need.”

Naturally, he’s describing how to both cut expenses and save greater proportions of your take-home paycheck here. Also, Rayo is describing how to begin scrounging for salvageable equipment, for sometimes, the line between window shopping and dumpster diving can become quite blurry at times. Revealingly, he explicates to:

Keep money in simple, safe forms. If your savings are small and short-term (under $2000, under two years) the best form for North Americans (all factors considered including ease of conversion) is probably U.S. or Canadian $20 bills well-hidden in several places. Currency will suffer inflation losses but, for small amounts, any other form is apt to be more trouble than it is worth. For a larger amount or a longer time, investigate gold and silver (bars, or coins priced at close to metal value only), Swiss banks, etc. Avoid savings bonds or savings accounts in U.S. institutions. Don’t speculate in stocks, real-estate, commodities, rare coins, etc. (unless you are already a full-time professional at one of these).”

Obviously, substitute $10,575 for $2,000 but otherwise his recommendations here are consistent with the goldbug perspective. Granted, there are those within the alternative media who dislike anti-inflation investment because precious metal bullion cannot be used as money (they rationalize) if the SHTF, yet this is just one more example of why I disregard the veracity of doom porn, since it’s usually employed as a lame excuse for why not to do something (and often, to reinforce the servile society in someway; typically, in the form of political crusading).

Consider for a moment two individuals who practiced frugality to the degree that it could be said they pursued, or even achieved, FI. Henry Thoreau detailed in Walden what the costs of his one-room cabin were, and he often expressed how the mindless pursuit of wealth harmed one’s spirit (or in less mystical terms, how consumerism hurts an individual’s freedom). Alex Ansary still lives what could be described as a “minimalist” lifestyle for the past several years, ranging from living out of a teardrop camper pulled by a pickup truck and then later RV living to now his off-grid homestead.

Interestingly enough, Rayo provided additional considerations regarding both women specifically and the exporting of labor generally. As he put it addressing the women-folk:

“Don’t feel that you should provide half the capital or income; you offer your own values and talents (and not just erotic ones). By analogy, silver has no more uses than aluminum, but it has different ones and it is scarcer, so it doesn’t exchange for aluminum, one-for-one. Why should you? Most women adapt easier to vonu living than do most men, perhaps because they are more self-sufficient psychologically; their self-esteem depends more on personal and home activities, less upon a ‘career’ involved with that society.”

Remember, he also thought women were invaluable for purchasing and owning private land because he considered them as being less likely targets for military conscription or for losing said land to the State due to lawsuits, taxation, or regulations. Gendered social norms aside, I think Rayo’s observation that women more easily become vonuans is largely due to the fact that women are not targeted by the State as much as men are, because the bludgies typically assume that most “law-breakers” are men, and even when there are lady “criminals,” these women receive lighter sentences than their male counterparts usually because they are assumed to be not as “criminal” or less likely to become repeat offenders; therefore, women automatically enjoy a higher MTH than men. Rayo went onto say that:

Second thoughts: Reading this, I’m not entirely satisfied with my treatment of export…[r]egardless of proportion of time spent, some will value vonu in export more than vonu at home. So let’s concentrate on what we value most – succeed at our own thing – and trade; then we’ll always have more vonu everywhere.”

Here, Rayo appears to revise his earlier statements about how vonu should begin at home, largely through a combination of shelter development and the importing of knowledge and supplies. Generally speaking, I think it’s a little hard to import much of anything if you don’t export first, because to do so otherwise would be to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Ergo, the utility of import-export as a balanced approach to exercising that one-directional isolation becomes rather quite significant, for much like any other true duality, each yin needs their own yang.

Finally, Rayo also made brief mention of how FI (as well as import-export) could be utilized in a broader context. He wrote:

“Some people talk of developing a ‘parallel economy’ producing all essential supplies and spare parts, before concerning themselves much with physical invulnerability. But this supposes involvement of millions of people. And what would a non-vonu alternate economy be, anyway? An enterprise vulnerable to the State must operate under State rules. This, not the rhetoric of its founders, will determine the way it operates, assuming it is a ‘success.’ Function determines form. A real alternate economy requires vonu (though not necessarily wilderness forms exclusively). A vonuan can minimize dependence upon the coerced economy by stockpiling essentials.”

In terms of MTH, Rayo has described E-level vonumy as being the minimum for an alternative economy, not to mention that the minimum profitable viability for E-level activity would be a small workshop or laboratory with a 10 year MTH (put another way, a comfortable home or tiny house is not good enough). Yet, what could facilitate individuals becoming vonuer by establishing a functional parallel economy? Rayo proposes that:

“A vonu association of a few dozen to a few hundred will likely be only a little more self-sufficient than one family. A remote (non-vonu) town of this size probably has a welder, dairy, nurse – maybe even a small machine shop. But most goods and many services are more economical to import than to produce there. Even in a country of 100,000 people, such as the Bahamas, most items are imported. The major advantage of a vonu association compared to a lone family: easier/better import-export.”

If true, then it begs the question of what would such a vonu association look like, exactly? Since a vonuum requires a skillful blend of concealment and deception, plus perhaps some elements of mobility and deterrence, vonumers might have to specialize in conducting import-export on behalf of other vonuans, given the reality that is the division of labor as well as the law of comparative advantage. All in all, when it comes to pursuing vonuence, you have to be able to walk before you can run a marathon, and similarly, if you aren’t frugally disciplined, then you have no business lecturing to others about developing a Second Realm.

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