Press "Enter" to skip to content

Everyday Outlaws; black marketeers and suburban farmers

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.


  1. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 24, 2011 8:51 am

    An excellent essay on exactly this topic.
    A Way To Be Free
    by Robert LeFevre

    We will move toward a free society, one by one. We will never achieve a free society in the sense that we can finalize the process. The price of freedom is eternal effort aimed at achieving self-control and self-mastery. We do not achieve this by controlling others. We move toward achievement when we learn to control and govern ourselves. Freedom is self-control, not license to impose on others.

  2. Claire
    Claire June 24, 2011 8:59 am

    Thank you, MamaLiberty. Already got that one — it’s the last link in the blog post — but LeFevre definitely bears repeating — and repeating — and repeating.

  3. Scott
    Scott June 24, 2011 9:29 am

    Something I discovered at my last job-a great many”important” rules can be ignored, with no ill effects. I worked at this job for almost two years(as electrical/general maintenace for rentals-part of the job,anyway)before I found out(by accident) that there was a building inspector(from what I’m told, a drunk that could be bribed with a sack of White Castle sliders). There was an inspection sticker on a box of relays that hadn’t been opened in probably 40 years, filled with mouse nests,bugs,spider webs, various types of crud. Made me feel safer, that little green sticker. I’m willing to be few inspections have any meaning,other than getting the fee.
    Yard sales are very common here, from tiny to multiple church jobs. I don’t believe you need a permit, though I’ve been told you need to get a “tax number”-I doubt many do, if this is true. Urban farming is fairly common-I ride my bike a lot,and have heard roosters crowing in ancient, shotgun shack parts of downtown, seen food gardens in back yards,and lots of “Outta The Garage” businesses.

  4. bumperwack
    bumperwack June 24, 2011 10:37 am

    I see yard sale swat.teams in the “budget”……

  5. Dave
    Dave June 24, 2011 11:59 am

    Hold-open latches on gas nozzles were banned in California as of last year. The law hasn’t been repealed as far as I know, and I saw a few gas stations comply, briefly. They must have lost business, because I haven’t seen a pump without one in months – including a couple that I know had removed them before.

  6. Matt
    Matt June 24, 2011 12:49 pm

    Yard sales and the related swap meets, flea markets etc are a great american tradition. They are quite succesful here in the SW since a lot of our Mexican neighbors will come north to shop at our yardsales. It’s also a nifty way to move stolen property.

    Many years ago I knew a nice couple that ran a succesful business. They had one small accounting rule that they used. one and two dollar bills, did not get run through the cash register and were not reported to the authorities. When they would go on vacation, they would take bags of cash to pay for it. Helped they had their own plane.

  7. Everyday Outlaws « Underground Carpenter 2
    Everyday Outlaws « Underground Carpenter 2 June 24, 2011 2:33 pm

    […] Claire Wolfe       Link […]

  8. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 25, 2011 9:40 am

    OOPS! I guess I didn’t finish reading the post before I put that link up. I’d just finished reading it and was so impressed with it. I must have read it before, but just can’t remember. One of the joys of growing older is to rediscover things and enjoy them as much the tenth time as the first. 🙂

  9. Pat
    Pat June 25, 2011 3:13 pm

    I found this poem while cleaning up some files, and thought it might be applicable to Freedom Outlawry.
    It was written in 2003 at Strike The Root.

    (My Name and Email address has been showing up here again before I comment. Now it doesn’t want to accept my comment. I’m submitting this a second time, and apologize in advance if it’s duplicated.)

  10. Old Printer
    Old Printer June 25, 2011 4:56 pm

    I’ve operated a one man print shop for the last 35 years. Starting in the 70’s the regulations from the clean air act on through dangerous substances like lead (what a joke) and a multitude of chemicals, has made it difficult if not impossible to comply without going out of business. At first I tried but finally gave up. I’m a criminal now, but “under the radar” of the various agencies. It’s strange how just trying to make an honest living is now an outlaw job. Simple rules:
    “Lose” any forms mailed to you.
    Never admit to anything.
    Play dumb, to the point of pretending old age dementia.
    Always keep records a nightmare of a mess. (Except YOU know where everything is)
    Discount for cash, and NEVER bank it.
    Accept new customers with caution, and only on referral from trusted friends.
    Never use a credit card for purchases.
    And finally, never, ever join a trade organization or anti-government group – might as well paint a bull’s eye on your back.

Leave a Reply