Attending to the Basics First

One of the foudational tenets of worker-capitalism and self-sufficiency is that one should pull one's own weight first. While trying to have everyone buy a plot of land, build their own shanty, and create a fully self-sufficient homestead is impractical in modern society, the underlying principle of providing as much for yourself, on your own, is certainly useful.

There are numerous blogs and web sites on the subject of homesteading, frugal living, and RV living. I have looked at quite few of them, but they all seem to assume you are starting out with a house to live in and a fair amount of money to get started on your journey toward sefl-sufficient living. I have neither. Therefore, I must proceed differently, but the principle of seeing to the basic needs first, still holds.

So what are the basics?

At the most fundamental level, the basics are the bare survival necesities: food, clothing, and shelter. In modern society, wherein most of us live in cities and not off the land out in the woods, you will also need an income stream and a source of electric power. In the 1800s, the one tool you really needed in the wilderness was probably an axe. In the 2000s you need a computer. Computers require electricity. I get mine from the local library at present. These need to be taken care of first or you cannot fill the more complex needs without becoming highly dependent on others.

There is another tenet of worker-capitalism: minimialism or minimality. Minimalism is not so much about forcing a spartan existence on yourself as it is focusing on filling your needs well and efficiently. This is part frugality and part utilitarianism, but also part superlativity. Better to have a few awesome things that fill many needs well than many mediocre things that fill them poorly. Minimalism means, first and foremost, keeping things as simple as possible. The simpler you make your life, the fewer things that can go wrong and the fewer problems you are likely to have to deal with. This doesn't mean you need to forego all luxury or refinment. Just the opposite. It means you should be as refined as possible within the limits of your means and should always strive for improvement in all things.

I am only able to provide for my most basic survival needs right now. I have a job to provide an income stream; I run a small network consulting business for sporadic supplemental income as well. I also own my own home, the RV I live out of. This is a good example of applied minimalism. I simply can't afford to buy or rent a house in San Diego on my present income. Yes, I know about low-income housing, food stamps, and all the other assorted welfare programs. I have yet to encounter one of these programs that lets me live my life on my own schedule, by my own set of rules. Furthermore, for all that I applaud the work requirements in the new welfare programs, many of which have been severely weakened by the Obama administration, there is still no welfare program on the books which doesn't kick you off the second you become the least bit productive. I hear it every day at the library where I write and work to learn new IT skills so I can offer more services and make more money. Many of those who spend their days here are all using the library computers to get into various state and federal programs for the disabled, homeless, veterans, and low-income earners. There seems to be a program for everything and numerous people trying to make use of them. Billions of taxpayer dollars go into this morass we call a social safety net. Most of those billions go to pay the salaries of administrators, burueaucrats, and non-profit operators. Less than a third of that money ever gets to the people they are intended to help.

My RV was bought used for $3800 and required just over 1300 dollars worth of repairs to make it relable and safe to drive. I got a job at Panera Bread at minimum wage to get an income stream going. I have yet to find any cheaper way to provide myself transportation and shelter with the same degree of autonomy it provides me. I have christened it, The Serenity, partly for that reason, and partly for the Firefly reference. The money spent annually on the myriad federal and state programs for low-income/affordable housing and job training, I could easily buy a million people per year a new Roadtrek 170, insure it for a year, and get each owner a six-month supply of gas. They could then have a place to live, travel to where the jobs were, start working to get back on their feet, and, arguably, be living better than I am.

With these two basic necessities covered, I can work to provide for all the others. The income stream provides food and clothing. Power is the next one I need to get for myself. The advantage of living in the Serenity is that I don't need much power. A 250-watt solar panel should cover my needs nicely, assuming an average of five hours of sun per day. Before I do that, I need to do some work on Serenity to make it work more efficiently as a mobile office. Once I have power, the next thing will be getting mobile Internet, and, after that, recapitalization of my trading account.