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Before we proceed, this series is all about what you can do individually if you're tired of institutions that have no regard for your interests. If you've missed any of the first three parts, get caught up!
In the very first part of this series I shared Gallup poll data showing the level of trust the American public has for the mainstream press. It showed how poorly that trust has performed on a multi-year trend. I won't re-share the whole chart here but there was a significant breakout between party affiliation and trust level. What I didn't share in the first part of this series was if you look at the aggregate number for all respondents, that trust level comes in at just 36%. While that's pretty damn bad, it doesn't sniff the lack of approval we all have for Congress.
Coming in at a truly wretched 21%, our approval of our congressional representation has rarely been above 30% for much of the last decade and a half. Surely the executive branch must be doing better right?
Eh, not much. We could go deeper into those numbers, but like the press approval breakout, our political party affiliations are likely a strong indicator for how we feel about whoever happens to be inhabiting the white house at any given time. That chart above is a little difficult to make out but what I really like about it is it shows, with a couple exceptions, that US presidents generally leave office with approval ratings closer to lows than highs.
In summary, we don't like the legislative branch. We don't like the executive branch. The Supreme Court, where we've largely been split right around 50/50, is now also at a 20 year low for approval. We hate our government. That's pretty much the point. As has been the theme throughout this series, the power you have is with your dollar and with your feet.
I'm a pretty strong libertarian if you want to put me in a box politically. While I don't own any t-shirts that put it out there on my chest, you could say I'm a member of team “taxation is theft.” However, I recognize that many of you may disagree with that. Taxes do help fund certain programs that help people. Though I'd argue even that tax money could probably be spent considerably more efficiently, I'm pragmatic enough to understand that complete removal of all taxation isn't going to be a popular rallying cry for most people.
“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
That said, your taxes are your power. There are two things you can do to make your voice truly heard with your taxes. The first is move to a jurisdiction that aligns better with your broad philosophical viewpoint on governance. Perhaps you live in New York, California, or Illinois. These are notoriously high tax states that have the added features of being generally poorly run and terrible when it comes to civil liberties. My advice is if you live in a place like that get the hell out. There are other states that will respect your liberty and your autonomy. Texas, Florida, South Dakota, and Wyoming come to mind. But I'm sure there are other options depending on exactly which freedoms you value more. Shop around! And that brings me to education.
September 2021 was a horrible month for personal freedom. The obvious example that comes to mind might be Brandon's jab mandate for all companies with over 100 employees. But that's just one part of why September was bad for freedom. Something really interesting happened at the end of that month. On September 29th, 2021, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) lobbied the president to utilize the Department of Justice and the FBI to target angry parents. The NSBA wanted to label the parents of children who appose critical race theory (CRT) as domestic terrorists. A couple weeks later, we learned the FBI was seemingly on board with the plan.
Luckily for parents in half the country's states, the reaction to the NSBA's letter to the president has been strong. Without even touching on the absurdity of equating upset parents with terrorists, there does seem to be a movement away from what I'd consider to be traditional schooling in the last 20 years or so. Just 1.7% of school aged kids were homeschooled in 1999. That figure nearly doubled to 3.3% in 2016. I suspect there will be even more homeschooling going forward. This is important; when you punt the power to educate to the state, you give the state access to your child's mind. This is something that has been talked about in the Faybomb household for a little while now. And while no decisions have been made yet, I can tell you we've never been closer to homeschooling our daughter than we are at this moment.
I'll share a personal story that involves a nurse at my daughter's pediatric office. I don't know her name, she was very nice and respectful. I don't blame the nurse for the response she gave to a question that I asked, but I think it highlights some of my problems with the current medical industrial complex that we're all now realizing that we're stuck in. I'll briefly explain the situation. I took my daughter to her wellness check last Friday. After checking weight and height, I was told my little girl was due for two immunizations. I asked what they were and the response was the name of the shots which I had never heard of. So I pressed further, "okay, but what are they for?"
Response: "It's so she can get into kindergarten."
Here's my problem with that answer: why is the given reason for the necessity of these two shots so she can go to a public school? I was expecting something like "they will prevent her from catching whatever-disease or whatever-virus." And maybe the real reason the shots are required for schooling is because they actually are helpful in some way. I have no idea though because the articulated answer wasn't to prevent illness, it was essentially because she has to. Yeah, nah. I reject that as a sufficient answer. I'll get more details on just what the hell it is they want to shoot into my daughter before they do it. She did not get those shots on Friday. If my little girl, who is healthy AF and has been in daycare for years, can't go to kindergarten because of immunizations that I don't think she needs, maybe she just won't go.
Each parent is different. For some it might vaccinations that might not be necessary. For others it could be CRT or something else specific to the curriculum. Maybe opposition to a superintendent. I don't know. Maybe it's the pledge of allegiance. Maybe it's God in the classroom. Who knows? The larger point is, I want some semblance of control over not just what my daughter is learning, but how she is learning. I don't want her memorizing stuff to pass a test only to forget it in a month like I did. I don't want her to be a book smart social idiot. This is all a long way of saying, you have the power to not give the government access to your child.
This is actually a tough one for me and I'll admit I've gone back and forth on voting a few times in my adult life because I've been so torn. Sometimes I'm very much in the don't vote camp. Other times I've fallen in the vote third party camp. What has been painfully obvious to me as a US voter is neither of these approaches have worked very well in my brief experience as a voter. That said, the fact that abstaining or voting outside of the two party duopoly hasn't worked all that well is not an admission that voting for the lesser of two evils is a good idea. That's what most US voters wind up doing and it's obviously not working either. Consider how large the population of independent voters is in this country.
Data from Gallup. Party affiliation Trend from Jan 2004 - Oct 2021. Plots are % of respondents
On the latest survey, 44% of respondents said the were independent. If we want to quantify how many people in America are independent against US census data, we're probably looking at somewhere between 100-115 million people. If these people voted for who they liked rather than against who they don't like, we might have different election outcomes. Certainly on the local level. And I'm getting to a larger point. I now acknowledge that there are exceptions to this assertion, but generally your vote on the local level is far more important than any voice you have pertaining to national election outcomes. On the surface, that might appear to fundamentally go against the entire point of You Have the Power, but it actually doesn't. You still have an impact in your Congressional representation.
Right now, we have people in Congress front-running their own regulatory considerations by making bets in the stock market. It’s so bad, that following Nancy Pelosi’s trading has actually become a strategy. And to just briefly reiterate, our approval of Congress is abysmal. Yet, we continue to vote for the same exact people! Why would they change their ways? We’ve never forced them to do so! Incumbent re-election in Congress is almost always over 90%. So, if I could make one recommendation to you all, it would be to turn over Congress. Completely. Every single one of them. Vote them out. Maybe one or two babies will be thrown out with the bath water. They can always run again.
Local elections are where real change happens and they are usually where the decisions that have greater impact on your day to day life are voted on. If, like me, you're in a small town, there's a chance you can run into one of your elected officials at the grocery store or at an event. Maybe you know them personally. Maybe you are one. Maybe you should be one. In your local governance, you have a bigger voice. You have better access to the people in your community who are seen as leaders. You have local police officers or Sheriff's deputies who you can talk to. Get to know these people. It is imperative that your local police are on your side. You have the ability to create real change either by asking the right questions at town hall meetings or by participating in the governance yourself by winning over voters. This is where the political battles are most winnable right now.
"One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."
Martin Luther King Jr.
The most important thing you can do to fight bad governance though is simply not comply. I had to take care of a business matter with the city where I reside a couple months back. I didn't realize it at the time, but the city building that I walked into had a "mask mandatory" sign on the door. Since I didn't see it I walked in without a mask on. You know what they did? Nothing. You know why? Because they can't. Now, I'm not trying to make this about masks I'm merely sharing this story as an example. Governments only have the power that you give them. Bad laws should be broken out of existence. I'm not talking about anarchy, okay. There are some laws you shouldn't break because they're just. But here are some examples of laws that you should and probably already break:
Gambling laws - if you have poker night with friends or make a bet on the outcome of a game, you're probably breaking the law.
Food permits - want to teach your kid how to run a business? If your kids have a lemonade stand, they're probably breaking the law.
Auto/Traffic laws - numerous examples, here's just one: in some places it's illegal to warm your car up in your driveway.
Some of these laws I mentioned above vary by state and local jurisdictions. When it comes to the federal government on the other hand, it can be a little scarier to go against what you're told. But the federal government is a bloated, immovable, albatross. Most of the people running this beast of system don't care about you. They don't represent you. And the power they think they have over you is flimsy. It only exists as long as you accept that it must. What can you realistically do? Decrease your tax obligations as much as you possibly can. I'm not telling you to lie or to cheat. I'm just saying utilize absolutely every measure at your disposal to keep as much money away from these people as possible. Here are some examples; if you invest, harvest losses at the end of the year if you trade out of a taxable account. Use cash whenever you can. Cash is private. Credit isn't.
Finally, arm yourself. You have the right to bear arms for a reason.
Let's look at the suggestions I've thrown out there in this series. Cut your cable. Cut your screen time. Be selective about which businesses you support and which companies you invest in. Get out of the native currency. Pull your kids from public school. Move to a different state.
It's A LOT. And it is HARD to implement any of this let alone all of it. I get that.
As Americans, we've become very accustomed to convenience. We really don't like doing things that are hard. We come up with any excuse we can to justify sticking with whatever our personal status quo is. But much of this status quo protection comes with an assumption that our conveniences can't be simply taken away even after we've offered obedient compliance. We have careers. We have assets. We have family members who will think all of these suggestions are, frankly, crazy.
But if these conveniences aren't really guaranteed, does that change the way we view them? What if the dollar loses 30% of it's purchasing power in a 12 month period? What if that happens for two or three consecutive years? What if that job you got the jab for doesn't exist a year from now? In these scenarios, our livelihoods are wiped out. Perhaps the only true choice is to actually say “no.” To say “I don't approve of how things are going and I'll do whatever it takes to prove it.”
My sister recently let me borrow the book Originals by Adam Grant. I'm actually not finished with it yet but one point from the book that I like so far is an illustration that elaborates on Albert Hirschman's writings in Exit, Voice, & Loyalty. Grant's version breaks out Loyalty into "neglect" and "perseverance." This is what the illustration in the book looks like:
Courtesy: Adam Grant, Originals
Change the situation is obviously what this entire series has been about. Your voice is your power. This is the best way forward because it's actually beneficial to the organization that is struggling. But your voice will only get you so much. At the end of the day, the organization has to put what you're providing with your voice into action. When it can't, or won't, it's time to exit. It might not change the situation for everyone else, but it will for you. And it will ultimately be detrimental to the organization down the line.
Substitute government for organization here. If voice isn't working, it's time to exit. You exit by changing decisions with your feet, money, and time.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the series. It's been a lot of fun working on it and I sincerely hope you got something out of it. Change isn't easy. And it can be scary. But nobody is gonna do it for you. We can't comply our way into freedom.