Monday, May 20, 2013

Freedom Requires Courage . . .

Freedom Requires Courage! I find those three words about as compelling and impacting as the late M. Scott Peck's opening statement, "Life is difficult." in his best selling classic, The Road Less Traveled.

Indeed, true freedom does require courage. I picked up this thought from a fellow responding on one of the Yahoo groups I subscribe to about Vandwelling. One individual posted about his solution to acquiring a van type vehicle to travel and live in and others were weighing in with their thoughts on the subject.

Steve A., posted his contribution to the subject and it went like this, I quote him:

. . . I avoid debt like the plague. I count being debt-free as important as regular maintenance. A credit card for emergencies is wise, but don't trade your freedom to the banksters except as a last resort. Debt = slavery, and it will destroy your peace of mind. Rent is also a losing proposition, helping to pay someone else's mortgage. No property means no property taxes. Van dwelling is considered hostile by the authorities because they can't stand the thought of people not being chained to the economic "system" and not slaving to pay taxes. Freedom requires courage, which is why van dwellers are the most interesting and thinking people you will find.

I think it's important to clarify that van dwelling or full-time RVing people do not evade taxes. They simply choose to avoid paying any tax they feel they are not legally bound to pay. So far, there is no "law of the land" that I know of that demands, commands or in any other legally binding way requires anyone to own real estate or help anyone else finance the other party's real estate and pay that party's real estate taxes through the rent they would pay to occupy the other party's real estate. In other words as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court, "The legal right of an individual to decrease the amount of what would otherwise be his taxes or altogether avoid them, by means which the law permits, cannot be doubted." So, avoiding paying any taxes you are not legally bound to pay is fully sanctioned. This is not to be confused with evading taxes that you are subject to by law or tax code.

Many people make decisions and choices in life that are, all too often, influenced by misinformation, lack of knowledge, intimidation and fear. The tax codes and all the levels of taxation one may be subject to including local city or town, county, state and federal are voluminous and intimidating. Many people take the "safe" route and pay everything they believe they must pay. They live their lives believing they must live within the lines or inside the box that seems to be the standard established, once again, by an unknown committee of people or authority we refer to as "They."

That's the reason Steve A's comments and most significantly, the three words, "Freedom requires courage," really were meaningful to me.

Condemning the 1%

It never ceases to amaze me when people bad mouth and condemn the "so-called" 1% or the "Rich" people for not paying their fair share of taxes. The problem is, in probably 98% to 99% of the cases, the 1% have indeed paid their fair share as prescribed by law. And, why shouldn't they? They have been blessed with the good fortune to be wealthy. They can afford to pay their taxes. The problem is that those who haven't been as financially blessed see things through a "them and us" filter and pass judgment using a double standard. But, the wealthy pay CPA's and tax specialists to go over their finances with a fine tooth comb and prepare their tax returns taking every legal tax deduction, exemption and credit allowed by the current tax code of the current time. Most very wealthy people contribute more money annually to qualified charitable causes than the average family earns in a year and sometimes as much as many average families earn in a year.

I have a personal friend who is very wealthy. No! He's not a billionaire, not even close, but his net worth is still far more than most people could imagine. His church wanted to buy a new concert grand piano for some of the fine concerts and musical events the church sponsored and hosted. The piano was going to cost $35,000.00. Now, that's a lot of money. He knew the congregation couldn't raise that kind of money within any reasonable time. So, he told the pastor to present a fund raising proposal to the congregation to raise the money. This gave the congregation a feeling of "ownership" in the project; they had "skin" in the piano. They set a time limit to raise the funds. When the deadline was reached, a brand new $35,000.00 piano graced the front of the sanctuary. In fact, the congregation had only raised $10,000.00 of the $35,000.00 required for the purchase. My friend funded the other $25,000.00. However, the congregation never knew that. They believed they had raised those funds. My friend stipulated with the pastor of the church that his contribution was to be kept in total confidence and go to the pastor's grave with him or the deal was off. In other words, my friend wanted to remain anonymous and allow the rest of the congregation to believe they had achieved this worthwhile goal. 

This goes on everyday in our country, hundreds or perhaps thousands of time a day. So, why should these wealthy people not be able to take advantage of the tax laws as written? But, there are factions in our society that want to create divisiveness. It could be in government, religious organizations, educational institutions, the corporate world and other places including within families. The fact is that nearly 50% of the people in this country don't pay any taxes at all. They have no skin in the game, but they condemn those who do pay taxes for not paying enough. In fact, many of those who don't pay any taxes not only don't have any skin in the game, but their share is being paid by those who do pay. And, further, these same people are actually receiving financial benefits (often referred to as entitlements) from the tax funds of those who are paying their fair share. I'm not passing judgment against anyone. It is truly unfortunate that anyone finds them self in a financial or medical situation to need such financial benefits. However, my point is that those who are not paying any taxes are actually using the same laws to not pay any taxes that allow the wealthy people to avoid paying some taxes. It's one of those double standard situations I mentioned.

Freedom Requires Courage . . .

It truly does require courage. First, you must be willing to become educated and stop being influenced by those who are misinformed. Some one much wiser than me once told me when I was a young man, "If you want to learn how to make $100,000.00 per year, you have to listen to and learn from people who are making $100,000.00 per year. Do not expect ten people who each make $10,000.00 per year to show you how to make $100,000.00." Now, that sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Of course it does. That's because it is a simple truth and fact. And, most truths and facts can be broken down to the simplest and most common denominator. Don't get your tax information from hearsay and others who have never had to file taxes or who don't have to file taxes because their income is so small.

Second, freedom requires the courage to stop living in fear and being intimidated by the government (at all levels), in the case of taxes. Becoming educated in the tax knowledge that impacts your life is one way. "Knowledge is power!" Then you can't allow yourself to be intimidated by the people who you pay to work for you. Remember, every government employee, no matter at what government level and no matter what his or her job is, is paid from taxpayer money collected from the hard working, productive members of the private sector. Governments don't do anything that produces revenue. They get their money by collecting (or confiscating as they just did in Cypress) money from the private sector. The only place money is produced is in the private sector.

Every government at every level has a department of tax collection. The most feared agency in the U.S. is the Infernal Revenue Service at the federal level. I almost had to vomit while listening to some of the testimony, under oath, by the acting (forced to resign) head guy of the I.R.S. about this current scandal targeting specific kinds of organizations and individuals for political reasons. This is no different than the way dictatorships, communist and similar governments target their opponents and dissidents. If this man were a civilian in the private sector, he'd be facing a judge and a jury and probably facing a lot of years in prison for, among other things, perjury, obstructing justice and criminal negligence. Instead, he'll likely retire on a six-figure income with a bounty of additional benefits at taxpayer expense.

It requires courage to stand up for what's right and your personal freedom and my personal freedom are our right. It's not the amount of money we don't have that deprives us of our personal freedom. It's the amount of debt we get into that deprives us of that freedom. It's the misinformation, the lack of knowledge, the fear of the unknown that may befall us if we don't march in step with some authorities' drummer and buckling to intimidation of a variety of thugs in our society. It's not much different than "protection rackets" operated by organized crime lords. They just have different titles including I.R.S. agents, bill collectors, bankers, bosses, neighborhood bullies, police officers and you can add any other labels and titles you want to.

Yes, Steve A. is right, "Freedom requires courage . . ." People who choose to live free have to, at some point, take a stand in their own mind and heart. If you want to live free you have to define what that freedom looks like and how you define it. You have to determine the cost since you know that freedom is never free. You must stop being intolerant of others. Some of the others are the people who have become known as the "1%." Sure, there are some real greedy, exploitive, uncaring people in that group. But, remember, you may be partially or even completely living your current lifestyle because of the generosity 1% or the businesses they created that provide jobs. And, believe it or not, if it were to be your dream and goal to become a member of the 1% you could do it (a lot easier than winning a half billion dollar PowerBall lottery). So, you might actually become one of those that a lot of people loath and condemn. Are you really a bad person?

You'll have to prepare yourself by learning all you can about the choices you are making. That knowledge becomes the power to face the thugs, their intimidation and not fear the unknown because you're making it known. This may take you days, weeks, months or even years to fully achieve. You may not be ready or in a position to walk into your bosses office tomorrow and tell him or her to "take this job and shove it." That's probably not the best way to do it, anyway. Then you have to decide on a myriad of details. Where you'll live. How much space you'll need. Will it be a fixed location or on wheels? How much money will you require to live as you've outlined your living free lifestyle? Where will that money come from? What things will you pursue with your freedom? And there will be other things you'll have to determine. Then you can begin making the changes and moving toward your living free goal.

Freedom is both intoxicating and additive. I know very few people who ever want to go back to their former lifestyle once they have experienced living free. While I'm still becoming acquainted with a number of people who identify themselves as van dwellers, I have found them to be one of the most interesting groups of people I've encountered in my lifetime. They are all very individual. They are intelligent and resourceful men and women of all ages from young adults to Golden Agers, from a variety of backgrounds and careers and they all find interesting ways to support their lifestyles. And the thing they all have in common is that they love their freedom.

Be Courageous! Live Free! 


Marshall Ellgas said...

Well said. However, courage without common sense just makes you a courageous fool.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

You betcha - and it seems like we have a lot of that inside the Washington, DC beltway - actually, I think we can even drop the word courageous!