Friday, November 20, 2009

My Permie Homestead Unified Beliefs, Part 4: Political Ideas

This post is Part 4 in my "Permie Homestead Unified Beliefs" series.  If you are new to my site and haven't read any of the posts leading up to this one, you can catch up on the other ones by visiting the introduction.  This is the second to last post, where I will be talking about some of my political views.  This will be the last post where I describe my own various beliefs.  In Part 5, the final part in this series, I will try to explain how permaculture ties all of the beliefs I shared with you in the first post together.

Because my political beliefs are complicated, I think it will be best to describe them by describing the political party I sometimes think about trying to start.  A few years ago, when my environmentalism began to reach full stride, a friend and I were talking about the fact that my beliefs were somewhat "hippie" and somewhat  conservative.  We joked about starting a political party called the "Hippublicans."  Problem is, "hippie" can be somewhat of a derogatory term, and I don't want my party to be associated with the Republican party even in rhyme.  So, I filed the idea in the back of my mind, and forgot about it for a while.

Later, I started reading about some of the original tenets of libertarian thought.  Notice again, dear readers, my use of the lower case "l" in libertarian.  The Libertarian party is a bit wacko, but the original libertarian ideas have some merit.  I realized the conservative thoughts I had were much closer to original libertarian thinking than to today's so-called conservativism.  And my "hippie" thoughts mostly have to do with ecology, so I finally came up with the name of my party.  The Ecotarian party.  Or so I thought.  I typed Ecotarian into Google, and found out that it's already taken by a movement similar to the localvore movement.  So, I have a philosophy that weighs environmentalism/ecology and individual liberty both very heavily, but I can't come up with a good name for it.  If you have an idea for me, let me know.  For now, let's call it the Eco-liberty party

To summarize my political beliefs before going in-depth (design from patterns to details, right?), the Eco-liberty party would be a hybrid of the Green Party and original libertarian thought, taking the best from both sides and mashing them together.  It would definitely be what most American's would consider a 3rd party.  In my political science studies, I have always seen the defining principle of a 3rd party as focusing on individual liberty, and not on expansion of government powers.  In my mind "traditional" parties, such as the Republicans and Democrats, focus on overly large social structures, globalization, and disempowering the individual by creating structures of dependence on the government.  3rd parties seem to be the parties that focus on manageable social structures (community level), localization, and individualism (as well as individual responsibility for solving problems such as those described in part 2 of this series), and independence from sluggish governmental/social structures.  If you are a permaculture enthusiast, and you describe yourself as a Republican, I urge you to learn about the original ideas of libertarianism.  I bet you'll be surprised.  Likewise, if you are a permaculture enthusiast, and you describe yourself as a Democrat, I urge you to learn more about the Green party.  If you do check these out but you don't change your mind, that's fine with me... at least you will have observed and interacted, and probably learned something and expanded your mind a little, as well as strengthened your knowledge about your beliefs.

Now, to get into a little more detail.  I believe that nothing is more important than the environment, including the most serious human/social issues we face.  Without a healthy and balanced environment, none of those issues would even be possible.  I'm sure I'm mostly preaching to the choir on this one, but in case I have new readers who're new to permaculture and environmentalism, I want to be sure to stress that everything is part of the environment.  The economy is built on products created from resources gathered from the environment.  The service, sale, and transfer of those goods takes place within the environment.  It should go without question that the economy is part of and subservient to the environment.  Questions of whether dealing with climate and environmental issues would "cripple" the economy are moot, because without a healthy environment, the economy will eventually fall to pieces anyway.  For my own personal cherry on top, I like to point out the etymology of the word economy.  Economy comes from the Latin oeconomia which meant "household manager."  And what is the environment if not the largest household of which we are all a part?  To have a healthy economy, you have to manage a healthy "household," and the earth and it's environment is everyone's household.

Second only in importance to the environment is individual liberty.  Every person should be free and entitled to provide for themselves, their family, and their community to the best of their abilities.  This is where my libertarian thoughts come into play.  I feel strongly that individuals should be allowed to do almost anything that they please to improve their life.  There is of course an important caveat that can be summed up perfectly by a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said "the right for me to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."  I interpret this to mean that you are free to do whatever you like, as long as you don't negatively impact those around you.  Speak freely, produce food, make money, store and conserve resources, etc.  But of course while you can, you should not speak to harm anyone, steal or hoard food or resources, focus solely on making money, or think only about yourself, because then by exercising your own liberty, you may be impeding on the liberty of others.

I believe so strongly in individual liberty that I believe it should be carried out to all possible extremes, within the boundary of not infringing on the individual liberty of others, or damaging the environment.  I believe all people have the complete and inalienable ownership of their body.  This means women should be free to get an abortion if they so choose, and no person or organization has the right to force anyone to ingest any substance or incur any physical interaction that they do not wish to.  I believe drugs should be legalized in similar ways to alcohol and tobacco, and that people who choose to partake have the liberty to do so.  I believe people should be given the opportunity to produce the healthiest food they possibly can for themselves, and that healthy food should be made available and affordable for those who do not produce it; or they can eat all the junk food they want.  And I believe that other people should not be allowed to infringe on any person's right to do those things, unless of course by doing so they are stepping on someone else's toes.  This of course can be a gray area in some situations, and I don't pretend to have answers for all of those, but I think when in question, we should err on the side of an individual's rights above anything else (other than the environment, of course).

Finally, I know this post didn't go into nitty-gritty detail, but I think what I have said probably answers most other more detailed political questions.  My own guideline usually goes something like "If I were alive 20,000 years ago, was I free to do this?"  Almost always the answer is yes.  I next ask, "by doing this, am I creating or inviting harm/hurt/danger into someone else's life?"  If the answer is no, I proceed to "By doing this, am I causing harm/hurt/danger to the environment?"  If my answer to the last question is no, then I usually have my answer to almost any political or individual liberty question.  Try it yourself!

In my next post, I will try to summarize what all of the ideas I have shared in these previous posts have to do with permaculture, my homestead, and why I have chosen these as the direction for my lifestyle.  I expect that my 5th and final post could push 2000 or more words (and I don't want to break it into two parts, this has gone on long enough!), so bare with me while I work on it.  I of course want it to be a quality post.  Thanks, as always, for reading!


  1. Interesting post. What are your thoughts on capitalism?

    Most libertarians I talk to have this unshakeable faith in the free market-- which I don't understand. For an ideology that talks so much about personal liberty, they seem to overlook the wage-slavery inherent in unabashed capitalism.

    Personally, the ideology i lean toward is Libertarian Socialism.

  2. I think unchecked capitalism has it's dangers, just like unchecked socialism, feudalism, or anything else. This is one of the reasons I believe in localization, and not in humongous national social structures. I think that if you and I and 38 other people like us wanted to start a commune and try to practice pure communism, that could probably work pretty well, if we all had an agreed upon set of values.

    Then, let's say you get fed up with it, and you know of a village down the road that practices pure capitalism. That's where my strong belief in individual liberty comes in. You should be free to leave the pure communist village and go join the pure capitalist village. And if you got fed up with the capitalist village, you should be free to come back, or go try a third option. Also, the pure capitalist and pure communist villages shouldn't meddle in each others affairs.

    Singular ideologies are not the problem, as long as the people practicing them are not forcing their beliefs on others. Pure capitalism, pure communism, pure whatever else, only becomes a problem when a person is not truly free to choose which one they want to participate in. If someone wants to practice socialism or communism, they shouldn't have to move to Russia or China. That's not true freedom. They should be free to build a community with like-minded individuals, and not be meddled with by a bloated, power-hungry state or national political body.

    I'm not arguing for a complete reversion to the city-state model, but I do think we should trend in that direction. Anyhow, I'm going to stop, because I can (and think I will) write an entire post on this later. Also, I'm going read the article about Libertarian Socialism, it sounds interesting.

    Thanks for being such an interactive reader Mark!

  3. Also, I meant to comment on your use of the term "wage-slavery". I couldn't agree more! One of the lines of thinking leading me towards my homesteading idea was that I didn't want to be a wage-slave until I was 65. If I'm going to work my butt off, I want to do it to enrich my own life, not make someone else rich. As far as I'm concerned, once I own my land, and it produces enough on it's own to sustain me and my family, I'm retired. Even if I have to work around the homestead every single day, I'm doing it to better my own life and my community, and that's retirement to me... doing what you love.

  4. absolutely, man. self sufficiency on the homestead is going to be so much more rewarding than a 40 hr week in an office.

    again, totally agree on the localization. i would actually like to see a modern city-state experiment. it looks like we are heading that direction even now, as mega cities extend their borders, influence, and become more autonomous politically.

    if i ever have more money than i know what to do with, i'm gonna buy a plot of land on vancouver island and declare it a micronation/city-state (named cascadia, of course). that would be a fun sort of progressive subversion activity to run.

    have a good weekend, man.

  5. I like the idea of a city-state experiment, but I'm not a big fan of cities or the urban lifestyle. I'm a rural guy at heart, even though I'm currently an urbanite, and plan to move to Portland until I can buy land.

    However, if you do ever have the money to buy a lot of land on Vancouver Island, can I come and be a citizen?

  6. of course! consider your land fund "full" if i ever hit the lottery too.