Everything is illegal these days. You know it. You’re lucky if you get through your first cup of coffee without committing a federal felony or three. Your state legislature churns out new offenses targeting you for improper swimming gear or an unlicensed lemonade stand. As we saw yesterday, mere countycrats may already be building a SWAT team to raid your unpermitted garden shed.
That sucks, of course. But the silver lining is that when everything is a crime, everybody is an outlaw — and inevitably a gratifying minority of new-minted enemies of the state embrace their status, don their broad-brimmed hats, and become capital-O Outlaws.
Trust in government turns to puzzlement. Puzzlement turns to skepticism. Skepticism to loathing. Loathing to contempt. Contempt turns, in the best of us, to creative disregard.
Creative disregard shows itself in so many everyday ways that we may not bother to be aware of them. J, for instance, speculates that the plain old ordinary yard sale — which you’ve probably noticed is a growing phenomenon in neighborhoods prosperous and poor — is a nascent (or actual) black market:
I have noticed a very big increase in yard sales, which I am certain are due to the economy of course, but even in the worst of times I can’t imagine them being much more diverse. Yard sales, whether singly, neighborhood, or organized “farmers market” type are the norm down here from the first warm breezes of spring till it’s too cold to stand outside and certainly constitutes a market where you can get everything from guns and tools to food and clothing. I have already seen food, rifles, shotguns and pistols, ammo, over-the-counter meds and vitamins as well as dietary supplements, and every household good and tool imaginable. Other then prescription meds and machine guns (which are probably available if you know the right person), If TEOTWAWKI happens I think a black market would continue on exactly like this.
In fact, ARE these black markets? Certainly no taxes are getting paid. The guns are bought and sold with a handshake. An item may be bartered or cash exchanged. In some areas I understand you have to have a license or permit, but none are necessary down here and I’m pretty sure none would be tolerated. At the very least this constitutes an underground economy, and from what I’ve seen this year, an increasingly vital one. These aren’t people trying to clean out their garage. These are people that are making a living, paying the bills, putting food on the table. These are people trying to survive.
And Christine, whose “Windfall” story graced the blog the other day, shows very much the Outlaw spirit typical of suburban farmers and sustainable foodies. These people are going to grow organic crops, raise non-factory animals, and trade their homefarmed wares and skills regardless of the sputterings of bureaucrats.
Joel meditated on free markets this week. Among other things, he touched on the touchy subject of “illegal” immigrant labor. Now you may love ’em or hate ’em. But large parts of this country run on “illegals.” Look what happened to harvests when the silly state of Georgia revived a dormant federal system to keep “illegals” from working.
No, every outlaw does not become an Outlaw. Some remain so naively ignorant they still imagine they’re law-abiding citizens. Some become furtive — true criminals, the opposite of bold Outlaws. Some get caught, some get killed, some crack under the pressure of always being on the wrong side of the law. (But sometimes, as we saw this week in the revelations of Jose Antonio Vargas, even cracking can be done with Outlaw grace and Outlaw power.)
Still, despite the growing culture of military-style cops and STASI-style informers, we can take comfort in looking around our own towns and neighborhoods. Every organic grower kneeling in her garden, every young immigrant pushing a lawn mower, every family setting up a yard sale, every contractor giving a discount for cash has, in his or her own way declared government irrelevant.