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Planting Seeds

Freedom from the state and self-sufficiency go hand-in-hand. One of our latest projects here at Voluntaryism in Action, “Rooted in Voluntaryism,” aims to assist more people to increase their self-sufficiency through gardening.  A VIA follower and volunteer, Roger Perry, is a master gardener with a lifetime of experience.  Below, he offers a basic explanation for planting seeds.  We hope this will be a helpful accompaniment to your seed starter kit if you signed up for our program, or that you’ll share with friends interested in starting their own vegetable gardens!      

Planting seeds is less expensive than buying nursery plants.  A packet of seeds may cost between $1.00 and $3.00 (check out the options from our friends at True Leaf Market) and will produce more plants than the average home gardener can use. Seeds can sometimes be received free at garden shows, food banks, and other community resources.

A packet of seeds may also be shared between family, friends, or neighbors reducing the cost to almost zero. Planting seeds allows you to extend the growing season as you can plant seeds indoors several weeks before it is safe to plant outdoors.

Before you start to planting seeds, it is important to take a look at the seed packet for important information about the seeds.  The front of the packet has general information such as:  the company name of the seller, cost, name and variety of the seed.  It may also show things like:  number of days to harvest, if it is suitable for growing in a container, if it is NON-GMO (not modified genetically), and the weight of the seeds. 

The reverse side will have a general description of the item, planting instructions, a map of the United States and four climate zones (this is kind of small and hard to see), and the year for which the seed was packed (although seeds are packed for a specific year, they will normally be viable (able to grow) for at least 2-3 years).

When planting seeds indoors you will need a growing container of some type.  Almost any container will do.  It should be fairly shallow, have drainage holes in the bottom, and a plate to catch the water.  It may be covered to retain moisture and warmth.  Recycled nursery containers (see below) are perfect.   They are shallow and have plenty of drainage holes.  They can sometimes be obtained from nurseries, friends, or from items you have purchased. 

planting seeds
Two examples of nursery containers, and a makeshift nursery container from a margarine tub.

You can also use recycled household items (below). 

planting seeds

Clamshell type items can be cut in half (below). 

planting seeds

Put drain holes in one part and use the other as a plate to catch the water (below). When putting holes in the containers be careful not to injure yourself!  

planting seeds

A cover is not necessary, but if you want one you can use plastic film, a plastic bag, or top of a plastic clamshell.  Put a few small holes in the plastic cover to prevent mildew or overheating.  Even with the holes, remove the cover for a few hours a day and make sure the plastic does not touch the soil.

You do not need to buy a special soil mix for planting seeds.  Most yard soil will do; however, if your soil is especially heavy and wet, you will have better results if you can add some potting soil and or sand.

Now you are ready to plant!  Wet the soil and let it drain.  Follow the instructions on the packet for how deep to plant.  Try to allow more space between seeds than the packet indicates to make it easier to transplant when the time comes. If you are planting more than one variety of seed, it would be a good idea to add a marker with the kind of seed and the date they were planted. 

Planting outdoors may be easier and less troublesome.  Whether you are planting seeds or transplanting your seedlings, the process is about the same.  Prepare the soil.  Again, most soils will do without adding costly, processed amendments.  If your soil is especially heavy clay, you may want to add sand, compost, or other organic matter. 

Using a shovel, hoe, trowel, etc. dig the soil up, breaking big clods and adding any amendments as you go. Rake the soil smooth.  Water lightly and let it drain.  Plant seeds according to package directions. Plant seedlings at the same depth as they were in the seed bed.  Adding a light mulch will help retain warmth and moisture and will deter weed growth.

Now, water and weed as necessary until your crops are ready to harvest!

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The Economics of Voluntary Charity

Have you ever thought about the economics of voluntary charity? Probably not. Let’s take a look together, shall we?

“The single most important factor about the free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”

A free market is one term for voluntary commercial actions, entered without interference from coercive government laws, programs, and regulations. But in a free market, is there any incentive to give to those less fortunate?

Some people say no, and therefore the government must force people to support the poor. This is obviously untrue, since many organizations such as Voluntaryism in Action exist to help the poor. But it’s not enough, some say: people who want to cast off the yoke of government welfare just hate the poor, and want them to be dependent on the whims of the rich.

Leaving aside for a moment the drawbacks of being dependent on the whims of government, is there nothing at work in voluntary charity besides the fickle feelings of wealthy folks? I say there’s quite a bit more: simply, that charity works like any other function in the free market, and the most efficient and effective solutions will be found through freely chosen, voluntary cooperation.

It’s easy to see what the receiver gets out of the voluntary charity. But what about the giver? There must be some incentive for them to give. On an individual level, this is easy to see: they feel good about themselves. Reducing voluntary charity to a simple market transaction, the donor exchanges his or her time, money, or goods in return for the euphoria—in common parlance, “warm fuzzies”—that comes from having helped someone.

But what about when it comes to large organizations, such as businesses? There’s no one individual to feel the euphoria, so does that mean that the incentive to give is gone? Not at all, but it is more complicated.

"The overall effect of the free market is that needs are satisfied in the most efficient manner possible."

In a free market system, any business depends on public opinion for its existence. Reputation is everything, and a poor reputation will drive away customers faster than anything. That’s why business have to be so careful to cultivate goodwill in the free market. For major corporations like Nike and Coca Cola, the most valuable asset is their brand name.

A fast way to gain goodwill is by helping needy members of the community. Again reducing it to a simple market transaction, the businesses purchase the goodwill of potential customers through the intermediary of the needy person. Then, by patronizing that business, the customers can experience the euphoria from charity, knowing that they helped to support the business that helped the needy person—essentially purchasing the euphoria from the poor person through the intermediary of the business.

In other words, a market-based system of voluntary charity provides incentives even for “greedy corporations” to help the needy. It is in the corporations’ best interests to bolster their reputation by supporting worthy charitable causes in order to add value to their brand in the mind of consumers.

Allowing the economics of voluntary charity to proceed unhindered also works in favor of helping needy individuals and ending poverty. The overall effect of the free market is that needs are satisfied in the most efficient manner possible. Keeping in mind that the charity market is essentially a market for the euphoria that comes from helping people, those who are most likely to receive donations are the ones who make the donors feel like they have made a difference—the ones who can show results.

Thus, the most efficient and effective use of charity money is on people who have a plan, utilize the donations well, and explain the success to the donors. Contrasted with a beggar seen regularly on the street, in the same condition no matter how much money they are given, the more satisfying choice is obvious. In this way, the euphoria of the donors is maximized, and the likelihood that they will donate again generally—and to the efficient receiver, specifically—is also maximized.

For the same reason, fraud is minimized in the voluntary market for charity. If the market is truly for purchasing the euphoria of helping someone, then finding out that you have been cheated will sap the will to give. Ergo, charity organizations may find ways to vet people who claim to be in distress and apply for aid. It seems logical that a person burned at one charity organization is also unlikely to give to another, and so charities would share information about abusers of their services with each other.

Since the existence of a charitable organization is dependent on continued donations, they will do everything they can to prevent fraud. When an organization can just take your money via force—like the state—it doesn’t have to be as careful.

For example, the US government recently passed bills creating more than $6 trillion in welfare to help the economy recover after the COVID lockdown measures they imposed. But not only did most of that go to politically connected special interests, the government also lost more than $200 billion to fraud.

When government steps in to regulate or replace charity with its welfare programs, the market function is distorted, as it always is when the government interferes. Without the direct and voluntary connection between giver and receiver, the euphoria of giving is nonexistent. The money taken for welfare programs then is nothing but a solid loss to those it was taken from.

And those who receive now do so through a faceless government bureaucracy with little, if any, accountability. Rather than being inspired to utilize the donations with maximum efficiency, the more they squander the money the more they will receive, since the government’s numbers will show them in even worse poverty.

Indeed, the government welfare system has an interest in keeping it that way, since the jobs of those who administer it depend on people being in poverty. As Isabel Paterson pointedly stated in The God of The Machine, “If the primary objective of the philanthropist, his justification for living, is to help others, his ultimate good requires that others shall be in want. His happiness is the obverse of their misery.”

“If the primary objective of the philanthropist, his justification for living, is to help others, his ultimate good requires that others shall be in want. His happiness is the obverse of their misery."

Government welfare creates a dependent class, both of welfare receivers and of administrators, all of whom live on money forcibly taken from others. In the economic sense, this is nothing but institutionalized theft. Voluntary charity, like any market action, is a voluntary exchange of goods.

And like any exchange in a free market, both parties benefit from the transaction—and the tendency is to encourage the most efficient producers of the good. Rather than creating a dependent class of moochers, voluntary charity tends to reduce the number of people in need by rewarding those who escape poverty and need, and discouraging fraud.

We believe that voluntary interactions are the only way to truly help others. It’s a fact of humanity that people will freely act out of their own self-interest—and as outlined above, that self-interest often includes meeting the needs of others. When government steps in, nobody ends up benefiting except the government agents—and in the long run, not even them. As Friedman said, both parties benefit when exchanges are made voluntarily on the free market.

At VIA, we strive for a world of voluntary interactions that benefit everyone involved. The economics of voluntary charity and free markets demonstrate that this is possible.

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Capsized By Charity

“Capsized By Charity” was written by Oliver A. from The Liberty Quill.

“Far too many equate compassion for the poor with support for government welfare programs. They are not the same thing.” Bradley Thomas (@EraseState)

Merely two months had passed since purchasing our new car, yet there we were, continually stalling and finally unable to start – sitting ducks in the middle of traffic. Exercising our one option, my wife and I called a tow truck and waited in joint bewilderment. A faulty sensor caused a particular tow truck driver’s path along with ours to converge that evening. We climbed into his truck and struck up a great conversation that continued until we reached the dealership to drop off the vehicle. Once there, the driver offered to drive us home, roughly a thirty-minute drive away. It beat waiting for a cab. As we continued conversing, the driver and I soon realized we had both overcome past addictions and began sharing how those victories had once more granted us abundant lives. Thirty minutes seemed like ten, and we were home. Thanking the driver, I took my wallet out of my coat pocket and asked him what we owed him. “Absolutely nothing,” he said. He added that the conversation had been an encouragement and was payment enough. Nothing? I was speechless. We exchanged some final words and said our goodbyes. As he drove away, my wife and I were left marveling at what had unfolded: genuine charity.

The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius once said,

“Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to throw away. Death stands at your elbow. Be good for something while you live and it is in your power.”

Many of us learn the benefits of sharing our toys and helping others early on in life. But where do these moral or societal norms come from, and how does applying them benefit us? In this quill, I will present the following three reasons individuals ought to be charitable: its importance throughout biblical scripture, the positive effect it has towards achieving individual happiness and peaceful society, and finally, how un-coerced charity erodes our reliance on government safety nets, potentially reducing the government’s influence over us.

Faithful Obedience

Before we begin, it’s worth mentioning that although the forthcoming section speaks to Christianity, specifically, I recognize many other belief systems place a similar emphasis on the importance of charitable works. However, as a professing Christian, I have chosen to adhere to what I know best. To the particular reader who may be averse to religious arguments, I encourage you to skip this first section rather than abandoning this work altogether. Now let’s dig in.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 from the King James Version (KJV) reads,

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Interestingly enough, the KJV is one of the few translations to convert this passage’s usage of the Greek word “agape” into “charity.” Most versions opt for the word “love” instead. Not to detract from the point at hand, but I find this helpful in demonstrating how closely associated the two concepts are.

The preceding passage addresses charity’s preferential position over individual spiritual fervor. Believers sometimes fall prey to the desire to impress others by voicing long-winded articulate prayers or trying to impart to others how closely they are to God. Please do not misinterpret me here; I am not saying articulated prayers, and a desire to grow closer to God is wrong. But the passage clearly states that if you demonstrate different types of spiritual gifts, claim to know God, but are not charitable, there’s a problem.

The website Britannica.com defines charity as,

“Charity, in Christian thought, the highest form of love, signifying the reciprocal love between God and man that is made manifest in unselfish love of one’s fellow men… In Christian theology and ethics, charity (a translation of the Greek word agapē, also meaning ‘love’) is most eloquently shown in the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ. St. Augustine summarized much of Christian thought about charity when he wrote: ‘Charity is a virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to God, for by it we love him.’”

So what do the accounts of Jesus Christ, and the bible as a whole, teach us about charity?

Let’s look at mercy as it relates to charity. In the biblical story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8), the Pharisees confront Jesus, remind him Jewish law requires that she be stoned to death, and ask Him what should become of her. Amazingly, although he recognizes her sin and knows the law, Jesus replies, “…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Awestruck, the men withdraw from the scene, thus sparring the woman from a humiliating and almost certain death. Jesus then counsels the woman and addresses her wrongdoing before telling her to sin no more. He could have easily condemned her to ensure His continued good standing with the spiritual authorities of the day. Instead, he illuminated the reality of sin and pointed the light back onto them. The woman received a great measure of mercy.

Many people associate financial generosity with charity. A well-known biblical principle that supports this is the concept of tithing – giving a certain percentage of your income to advance the church’s work. Tithing is an Old Testament (OT) command that is re-affirmed again in the New Testament (NT). Modern believers sometimes disagree about whether or not the ten percent still applies under the NT. Nevertheless, most agree that faithful giving is an essential part of spiritual discipline and growth.

My wife and I currently operate a church out of our home. We have faithfully chosen to continue putting money aside even though we’re not associated with any organization or have any operating costs. The tithing discipline enables us to meet people’s needs when they arise and to support established charities. There are no shortages of opportunities to help, and the scriptures point many of them out to us. Scripture frequently addresses helping the orphan, the widow, and most often the poor. A thorough review of scripture should compel the believer to help those in need and warn them against turning a blind eye.

To the believing Christian, Jesus’ death on the cross represents the most remarkable demonstration of love the world has ever known. Jesus devoted his early years to the teachings of the OT scriptures. Later, as his teachings began to increasingly subvert the local authorities and Rome, he never backpedaled as pressure on him began to mount during his adult ministry. He could have recanted and saved His own skin; instead, He chose martyrdom. Jesus exemplified perfect love while enduring a slow, painful death on the cross in saying,

“…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do…” (Luke 23:24)

The crucifixion account of Jesus and other accompanying scriptures has effectively spurred many Christians to make sacrifices to help elevate those around them.

Proverbs 25:21-22 describes the effects of being gracious and charitable on those who oppose us, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Most people expect to be repaid evil for evil. When we repay good for evil, this unexpected reply often stings the offender: something unanticipated. The world knows too much vengeance and too little forgiveness.

Creating A Peaceful Society

Charity’s effects on individuals and communities often contribute to a more peaceful society. As we circle back to our tow truck driver, we recognize the impact a charitable disposition can have in transforming would be adverse events. What could have been a lost evening and a sleep-deprived night was completely upended and displaced by optimism and general hope for humanity. I recall resolving to seek out opportunities to be generous to people least expecting it. This desire is best explained by the 2000 American drama film “Pay It Forward.”

The well-known non-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity, defines “paying it forward” this way, “To pay it forward simply means to repay a kindness received with a good deed to someone else.” What would society look like if charitable acts were continually paid forward? Have you ever been in a drive-thru and discovered the vehicle ahead of you paid for you? I hope so – it definitely sheds new light on your day. And if you have, did you pay it forward by paying for the next person? Something to think about. Imagine the ripple effect of everyone paying it forward for one day. How would that impact the employees? Sure this scenario presents winners and losers in terms of its cost implications. Still, everyone would benefit from the kindness received and the feelings generated from passing on that kindness. Ok, maybe I’m seeing things through rose-coloured glasses, but a guy can dream. The drive-thru scenario is a simple illustration of how charitable actions contribute to positive attitudes and lead to beneficial outcomes.

On the topic of attitude, an evergreen article by Colleen Walsh of “The Harvard Gazette” states,

“Studies suggest that more money can lead to a significant bump in positive outlook when it brings people out of poverty, but when simply taking a person up a pay grade, there’s often only a minor change in attitude. And while the purchase of material possessions can offer a temporary lift, the effects of a new watch, car, or dress, studies show, are almost always short-lived.”

The article also references a Harvard Business School and University of British Columbia study stating the following correlation between the act of giving and levels of happiness,

“The findings showed that those who reported spending more on others, what the team called “prosocial” spending, also reported a greater level of happiness, while how much they spent on themselves had no impact on happiness.”

If happiness were capital, the preceding quote informs an individual’s expected return on investment when investing in others rather than themselves. Increasing levels of individual happiness can, in turn, have positive effects on the communities around them. Aside from helping with financial needs, people can also give of their time. A willingness to watch my neighbour’s children on short notice can significantly benefit them when something unexpected comes up. Knowing we are there for them can enlarge their sense of security and improve their overall mental and emotional state. Our neighbourly commitment to one another strengthens our mutual relationship. When our children have it out with one another (kids will be kids), both families have increased incentives to peacefully work things out.

Imagine this reality multiplied throughout an entire community: everyone would benefit. Neighbours would be better acquainted and have a vested interest in watching out for one another: making the community safer. In a more harmonious world, calling on law enforcement to lower the volume level of your neighbour’s music would be unthinkable. What might motivate your neighbour to comply with your request? The reciprocal nature of healthy relationships. Charitable neighbours make for better and more peaceful neighbourhoods.

For individuals living rurally, specific organizations exist, enabling charitable works and offering opportunities to get involved. “Voluntaryism In Action” exemplifies tangible voluntary initiatives aimed at strengthening communities. The organization’s mission statement reads,

“Voluntaryism in Action strives to empower and improve the lives of everyone across the globe through charitable, voluntary, and free market solutions.”

Their initiatives aim to improve community development, respond to urgent needs and disaster relief, contribute to education initiatives, and more. When life qualities are improved, we often witness less crime, leading to a more peaceful society. Whether done in person or from a distance, charity increases the prospect of peace. In an age where a growing number of people are becoming social isolates, reaching out to those around you can upend the individual tendency to withdraw. It may take time, but a little persistence can bring about remarkable results.

Continuing with the organization at hand, we find a compelling distinction within their vision statement, which reads,

“To be the premiere resource and venue for those who seek to help their fellow man through voluntary compassion rather than coerced altruism.”

Coerced altruism resulting from taxation and administered by the state lacks genuine charity’s upside and impedes its organic development. Government welfare is very effective, however, in creating individual and apathetic communities. In turn, this apathy strengthens the perception that the state is the only vessel capable of providing assistance to individuals in times of need.

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Reducing State Influence

Turning our attention to altruism’s troubling relationship with the state, we once again borrow from our friends at Voluntaryism In Action,

“Rather than mutual agreements and voluntary exchange, we find our daily lives and actions being dictated by bureaucratic third parties. We find it not only immoral to centrally plan society, but dramatically inefficient. The system designates A to force B to pay for C, while A takes a portion for his own keeping. We find that this state-instituted welfare system not only leaves many disenfranchised due to disincentives, it further harms the individuals it intends to assist.”

State welfare should not be confused with charity. In his classic book The Law,” famous French economist and philosopher Frédéric Bastiat wrote,

“You say, ‘There are men who have no money,’ and you apply to the law. But the law is not a self-supplied fountain, whence every stream may obtain supplies independently of society. Nothing can enter the public treasury, in favor of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens and other classes have been forced to send to it.” (pp. 20-21)

Government assistance is merely the re-distribution of resources obtained through forced taxation from one individual to another. Despite being disguised as philanthropy, the truth is the appropriation of funds that bankroll social safety nets is made possible by oppressing and plundering private citizens.

Coerced altruism also encounters problems of reduced effectiveness. I make no attempt to conceal that I’m a federal employee at the time of writing this. My livelihood depends on tax revenues, as do all public employees, including those overseeing government safety net programs. These salaries equate to high administration costs, diminishing the assistance provided to those who need it. Another drawback, often unnoticed, is what I like to call “divorced charity.” The term divorced speaks to the impersonal aspect of government hand-outs which can negatively impact individual psyches in numerous ways.

First, government bureaucracy forces applicants to navigate endless forms in hopes of qualifying and accessing benefits. This process can prove quite burdensome and can contribute to increased anxiety and feelings of disenfranchisement. I have seen this unfold in the lives of certain veterans struggling with PTSD while trying to navigate the system. True charity works to alleviate these sorts of experiences. If someone we knew expressed difficulties in paying their upcoming power bill, which of the following approaches would seem more charitable?

  • A – Ask them how much money they require and offer to do our best to help.
  • B – Ask them for recent bank statements and a monthly budget plan, offer them money, and request a receipt to ensure the money went towards paying the power bill.

Option A, and to be clear, I’m not concerned about enabling a few dishonest individuals along the way. My instincts usually don’t let me down. Moreover, as we’ve seen, charity’s benefits often apply as much to those giving as to those receiving. By nature, state “benevolence” is impersonal and often inefficient. But what effect does society’s reliance on state programs have on the government’s increasing size and mandate?

The famous economist and historian Murray N. Rothbard wrote the following in his classic work, Anatomy of the State,”

“Once a State has been established, the problem of the ruling group or ‘caste’ is how to maintain their rule. While force is their modus operandi, their basic and long- run problem is ideological. For in order to continue in office, any government (not simply a ‘democratic’ government) must have the support of the majority of its subjects. This support, it must be noted, need not be active enthusiasm; it may well be passive resignation as if to an inevitable law of nature.” (p. 18)

When seeking the citizenry’s support, perhaps no scheme is more effective than dangling one’s livelihood before their eyes. As governments continue to expand, the population’s reliance on government safety nets has increased with it. There are now endless discussions around enshrining certain benefits as human rights. These expectations have resulted in some individuals making incentive-based decisions about whether it is even beneficial for them to find employment. Clearly, the gravy train has gone off the rails. Long gone are the days when the government operated as a collective group of individuals legitimized by protecting individual rights to life, liberty, and property. Today’s governments resemble huge cash cows, compelled to carry on funding all sorts of expensive programs and cooking up endless new positive right initiatives to maintain popular support. Every four years, many ballots are cast based on promises of increased financial incentives for the low and middle classes. As a consequence of central banking, most of these promises are funded without ever raising taxes, and few question the sustainability of such activities.

Consider the effects on voting behaviour if charity was solely an individual, community, or corporate pursuit. Back page topics would make their way into more serious discussions and contribute to superior policies – well, theoretically anyway. In the previous section, we visualized how communities, strengthened through neighbourly love, might impact society. Imagine how modified expectations might affect government size and the government’s claim to being our caretaker. For those yearning for freedom, from the classical liberal straight through to the anarchist, there’s consensus that the current size and scope of government is grotesque. Negating the government’s capacity regarding charity would take a small step towards undermining its authority, impacting future policies, and reducing its overall size.

In closing out this section, we would be wise to recognize government assistance for what it is – relief with conditions. The conditions being we accept the countless negative trade-offs, agree with the size and scope of government, and remember which hand has been feeding us through the next election cycle. Murray Rothbard put it simply in his book Power and Market: Government and the Economy,”

“It is curious that people tend to regard government as a quasi-divine, selfless, Santa Claus organization. Government was constructed neither for ability nor for the exercise of loving care; government was built for the use of force and for necessarily demagogic appeals for votes. If individuals do not know their own interests in many cases, they are free to turn to private experts for guidance. It is absurd to say that they will be served better by a coercive, demagogic apparatus.”

In Closing

“The Golden Rule,” as it is best known, instructs us to treat others the way we want to be treated. I recently heard the following thought-provoking statement from Michael McCullough during an episode of Russ Roberts’ show “EconTalk,”

“We’ve tried on a couple of occasions to study the Golden Rule and it’s hard, to study in the laboratory.”

Interesting. It’s as though most people accept this rule as a natural law despite having no explanation as to how it works. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t really matter in the end. Perhaps what matters is that generosity benefits both parties, increases the prospect of peace, and reduces government legitimacy. Sounds pretty good to me.

Towards charity,

OA

This article was reposted with permission from The Liberty Quill. The original article can be accessed here. You can read some of Oliver’s other great writing at libertyquill.com.

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Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub feeds people in wake of Covid-19

A small town pub did what they could in the face of government restrictions to alleviate the extra stress brought on by the pandemic during the holiday season. Chris Murie, owner of The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub in Toronto has been in “The Biz” for about 30 years, starting in the back of the house and as a chef. As an owner, he saw profits declining and employees struggling to get by due to the pandemic and the forced government lockdowns. In his frustration, he realized he was better off than many in his community. Many of the businesses local to him are now up for lease as the lockdowns continued.

When asked during an interview with CBC what the process was of deciding who they were handing out meals to, he replied: “No questions asked. Just call the pub. You tell us where you work or where you worked, give us your dietary restrictions, your food allergies, and we’ll have a hot meal ready for you.” As word spread around the tight-knit community The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub received offers to partner with breweries. The breweries who loved his idea wanted to find a way to help as well. They lent a hand by offering drinks to go with the meals.

Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub
Chris Murie, owner of The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub.

Murie got the idea after posting a long Faceboook “rant” centered around his frustration in seeing his community struggle. The expanded and increased lockdowns recently announced were causing further harm to small businesses in the area, forcing many to close. But what really got the ball rolling were the comments under his post. Particularly the ones describing their personal experience. Paraphrasing the general sentiment, he described the comments that led him to change his mindset, “You know Chris at least you still have the business. At least you still have a way of making a living and supporting your family. And if you apply yourself you’ll get through this.” Murie went on to say, “For some of these folks they have zero. Like, they have nothing. And it made me feel real selfish, especially at this time of year. It’s not a time to be selfish. It’s a time to give, and that’s sorta how it all went down.”

The owner of the locally loved Dizzy Gastro Pub could not be prouder of the way the community has come together. “This is an amazing neighborhood. I’ve been here for 15 years. We went through construction down here about 12 years ago and this neighborhood supported us through all of that. And I couldn’t be luckier to be in the neighborhood that we’re in. We are getting a ton of phone calls. The breweries are kicking in beer here. People are bringing free pop today. It’s just, it’s an incredible neighborhood, it really is, it’s like a little village.”

Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub

When asked about the future of The Dizzy Gastro Pub during the lockdowns and pandemic he replied, “Well, we don’t know. The truth is we don’t know what’s gonna happen. We have a good landlord who is working with us, as we’ve been here for so long. So, we’re fortunate there. It just depends on what happens with our takeout and delivery, and if it’s enough to meet our fixed costs every month.” Despite the uncertain future he gladly lent a helping hand to the people in their small town.

 Murie decided to be generous in a time of personal need to help his community. Even though he was also hurting from the pandemic and lockdowns, he was fortunate enough to be in a position to help others. And he voluntarily did just that. The following quote he gave during the interview pretty much summed up his mentality behind offering to feed those struggling saying, “I can’t do a lot. I’m just a little guy, but we can give them a positive experience and offer them a hot meal.”

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Volunteer Rescues 100 Pounds of Food

Sometimes, helping people is just a matter of keeping your eyes open. This was the case with one of our volunteers who was on the lookout for opportunities to help at his local hospital. He discovered that the hospital was tossing out almost 100 pounds of a nutritional supplement that was slightly over the best-buy date. He also knew that the local food bank accepts non-perishable items up to a year after their best-buy date. It was a simple matter to politely ask if he could take the supplements to the food bank. The hospital staff cheerfully agreed, and even helped him carry the boxes to his car.

volunteer rescues 100 pounds of food
Our friendly volunteer dropping off the rescued food at the food bank.

Because one person was on the lookout for ways to help, the food bank got 100 pounds of food that otherwise would have been wasted. “I’m just glad I was able to help,” the volunteer said. “It just cost me a quick drive, and this food could really help people.” Voluntary giving doesn’t have to be a matter of money. Sometimes all that’s necessary is keeping a lookout for opportunities and having the will to take advantage of them.

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A Very Voluntary Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite Christmas stories. The classic tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s redemption from heartless miser to generous philanthropist is a holiday staple. It’s affected culture so much that the word “Scrooge” is synonymous with a greedy or cold person—or one who just doesn’t like Christmas.

There are many reasons given in the story why Scrooge doesn’t like Christmas, but a big one is that he just can’t understand why people would voluntarily give away their money, time, or even kindness to help other people. His one employee, Bob Cratchit, has a salary barely high enough to make up for Scrooge’s tightfisted disdain.

When a pair of gentlemen come to Scrooge's office asking for donations to help the poor, Scrooge points to the money taken from him by the government...

When a pair of gentlemen come to Scrooge’s office asking for donations to help the poor, Scrooge points to the money taken from him by the government: “Are there no prisons?…And the Union workhouses?…I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.” Unfortunately, this does little to help the poor—the gentlemen protest that “Many can’t go there, and many would rather die.” And it’s even more obvious from Scrooge’s cold, unfeeling demeanor that he gets nothing at all from “helping” the poor in this way.

***Spoiler Alert***

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old partner, Marley, as well as three Christmas Spirits. Marley, who lived his life much as Scrooge does, is still bound by the chains of his greed, tormented by how he could have helped his fellow men. The Spirit of Christmas Past shows Scrooge how he used to care and have compassion for others, until he let the cares of the world set his heart like concrete.

The Spirit of Christmas Present takes Scrooge around the earth, viewing the happiness made possible even in the midst of poverty by caring for others. His heart softening, Scrooge is distraught at the sight of the sufferers, and asks if there is nobody to help them. “Are there no prisons?” the Spirit replies cuttingly. “Are there no workhouses?” Stricken by his own callousness in using the government as an excuse not to care, Scrooge finds himself before the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows him the dark, lonely life (and death) that await him—if his life continues unchanged.

But Scrooge has truly seen the light. He bursts from his house on Christmas morning like a ray of sunshine, spreading cheer where before he only brought gloom. No longer content to rely on the government to use money taken by taxation to help the poor, he begins a voluntary giving spree. He sees the gentlemen from the previous day and provides a donation so generous that they are shocked. When he next sees Cratchit, Scrooge is as munificent as he was miserly: “I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family…”

Notably, Scrooge's change of heart did not cause him to advocate for more taxes or welfare programs, but to voluntarily reach out to those around him.

The narrator records: “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more…” Notably, Scrooge’s change of heart did not cause him to advocate for more taxes or welfare programs, but to voluntarily reach out to those around him. By doing so, he affected their lives for the better in ways the government programs never could, and they in turn enriched his life in ways he never imagined.

The book refers to this as “keeping Christmas,” but voluntary giving does not have to be limited to a certain season. As Scrooge said: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” And you don’t have to be Christian—or religious at all—to feel the kindness and compassion that Scrooge felt in his heart, and use that to voluntarily bring light and hope to others.

“May that truly be said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”

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Alpenglow Sports: A Ski Shop that Gives Back

On Tahoe City’s main street exists a ski and climbing shop that is more than what it appears. With a consistent base of local customers and visitors, Alpenglow Sports has been a city staple since its opening in 1979. Its wooden cozy interior and friendly atmosphere has attracted a lot of thrill seekers who are drawn to taking on the mountains. With the current COVID pandemic, the shop has had to adjust their policies to correspond with social distancing measures and took a hit on sales badly during the onset of stay-at-home orders issued by the government—like many other small businesses who have suffered during lockdowns. But after some help from the Tahoe community, Alpenglow has continued to have lines out the door onto the sidewalks of Main Street. While Alpenglow is mainly a ski shop utilized for gear and other like necessities, it is also a ski shop that gives back, thanks to the efforts of the generous owner Brenden Madigan and their successful fundraising for local non-profits.  

Ski Shop that Gives Back
The inside of Alpenglow ski shop. Looks warm and inviting, doesn't it? Photo by Scott Rokis/Courtesy of Alpenglow

This fall, Alpenglow sports raised over $300,000 for local NPOs while they hosted an event called the Alpenglow Winter Speaker Series. This is an annual event is centered around sharing stories, and photos of adventures had in the mountains while paying it forward through inspiration and charity. Alpenglow has hosted slideshows for many figures of outdoor sports including American rock climber Tommy Caldwell and ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson.

During the fifteen years of the Winter Speaker Series history, over half a million dollars in total has been raised and given to various non-profits like the Sierra Avalanche Center and the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe. This event is a special time for the local residents and visitors to experience togetherness and show their support for improving their community. It is a free event, but all proceeds from raffles and bar sales go to non-profits. The Alpenglow Winter Speaker Series is just one of the experiential events that Brendan Madigan, the owner of Alpenglow, has created in North Lake Tahoe. There is also the Broken Arrow Skyrace and the Alpenglow Mountain Festival.

ski shop that gives back
The Donor Party, established in 2018, is the philanthropic arm of the Alpenglow Winter Speaker Series. Photo courtesy of Alpenglow

“Alpenglow has always been an influential part of the Tahoe and greater-than-Tahoe Community,” expresses Dave Nettle, who has also had a slideshow featured in the Winter Speaker Series about his experiences as a mountain guide and skier.

The owner of Alpenglow Sports is Brenden Madigan, who has been working at Alpenglow since 2003. He purchased the shop in 2011, and since then has made it a personal mission to center the shop’s importance around reciprocating the love the long standing community has that has kept Alpenglow alive in its forty year life span. “I think people derive happiness not from things, but from experiences and relationships. Our whole business centers arounds giving back to the community,” says Madigan.

Madigan’s efforts have created a centerpiece for events and fundraising, and during the current pandemic, he stresses that the need has never been greater saying, “People are struggling. My goal is to move the needle in the community by making direct impact in people’s lives.”


It was during the initial COVID lockdowns that Madigan reached out to his community for Alpenglow. Its future was looking grim. The response was overwhelming, and they were able to sell over $100,000 worth of gift cards to keep going. But since then – business hasn’t stopped and Madigan plans to keep his doors open for a long time.

And truly, what a perfect example of the power of giving individuals who stop at nothing to help improve the place where they live by exercising voluntaryism and kindness. North Lake Tahoe, you have wonderful residents and small business owners whose tireless work allows the wheel to keep turning.

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Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

One of the only good things about the tyrannical reaction to the pandemic has been the outpouring of support for people the government has hurt. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs due to state restrictions and lockdowns. But people are stepping up to help where the government inevitably hurts. For example, one chef is offering free meals to jobless individuals at his restaurants.

Chef Andrew Gruel (his food is better than his name) is a judge on the Food Network and the co-host of the SoCal Restaurant Show. He also owns Slapfish Seafood—a restaurant chain with 27 locations in the US—and the Big Parm pizzeria. On 3 December, Chef Gruel took to Twitter to remind everyone that people who had lost their jobs could get a free meal at his restaurants.

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

Hundreds of commenters raved about not only the Chef’s food, but about his kindness and generosity, and his willingness to assist those whom the state had harmed. Some people even offered to pay for the meals of jobless folks who take Chef Gruel up on his offer.

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

Predictably, not everyone was happy about people helping other people. The propaganda put out by the government and mainstream media has warped many people’s sense of right and wrong, even to the point where voluntarily helping people in distress is denounced as “selfishness.”

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless
Fortunately, most negative comments were few and far between.

Another common criticism of charity such as Chef Gruel’s is that greedy people will take advantage of his generosity, nobody will pay for meals, and he’ll lose money and go out of business. On the contrary, over the weekend the restaurants pulled in double the usual business as people flocked in to support Chef Gruel. And that money, Chef Gruel said, would be used to give his employees a holiday bonus.

The general condition of humanity is that people feel empathy for each other and want to help. This is why voluntary charity works—as the example of Chef Gruel and many more like him demonstrate.

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It’s a Voluntary Life

This essay by Sean Gale is the winner of VIA's 2020 Higher Education Grant essay contest.

The state has consistently used force to monopolize every aspect of human life, including the purge of voluntary association and transaction. This single statement is an immutable fact, as the list of laws, regulations, permit requirements, licensing, trade inhibitions, and wars against personal vices is nauseatingly long and wrought with violence. Conversely, there is a philosophy that resists tyrannous intervention, and seeks to bring about change in a free and nonexploitative manner. Voluntaryism, or the belief that the world should and would function without coercive and vile intercession, is one such belief.

The general populace appears unable to fathom that good can be done in the world without the hand of godlike men redirecting stolen funds to fuel an ever-hungry vacuous machine. If that mentality were to be lessened or dispersed, then the question remains: What would a world of voluntary transactions look like, and how would said world function? To answer in the simplest terms possible, this hypothetical place would not be absolved from the evils that plague the mortal plane, but would have strategies based on free will and choice that aid in the handling of complex and moral issues. A voluntary world is no utopia; however, the wickedness of man and the violence of the earth can be better handled through individualistic means. Choice would reign supreme in this scenario, and as Murray Rothbard once said, “There can be no truly moral choice unless that choice is made in freedom” (FEE.org, 2018).

Social welfare programs have neither ended poverty, nor done anything but create a cycle of dependence that drains money from the productive to give to their antithesis.

Firstly, social welfare is a system that statists consistently point to as if it is the only means by which those who have fallen on hard times can be lifted from poverty. In fact, many people use this one clause as a reason to submit to the state and resist voluntaryism entirely. Social welfare programs have neither ended poverty, nor done anything but create a cycle of dependence that drains money from the productive to give to their antithesis (Baetjer, 1984). In a world of voluntary association, economic strife would be lessened or managed via charity organizations, mutual aid societies, activist groups, food banks, friendly societies, educational and student led organizations, entrepreneurial endeavors unhindered by the state, religious groups, fraternal orders, and trade unions.

These organized groups already exist and have worked throughout history to support the wellbeing of their members and the general public. Examples include Odd Fellows, Free African Society of Philadelphia, Sanctuary Homeless Refuge, National FFA Organization, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Key Club, Shriners, Habitat for Humanity, Kiwanis, American Red Cross, 4-H, Boys and Girls Club of America, and Voluntaryism In Action to name just a few.

These entities can support members, perform community outreach, aid the impoverished, feed and care for the homeless, provide healthcare, educate youth, and assist the unemployed in finding jobs. In fact these organizations are so powerful at providing goods and services to those in need that “with the exception of churches, mutual aid networks constituted the most popular form of voluntary association in the US throughout the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A 1933 report by the President’s research committee estimates that one in three adult men were members of a fraternal society by 1920” (Adereth, 2020). Their effectiveness, and low cost of enrollment, made many organizations perfect for low income people to get aid.

The connective facet of each aid society or volunteer group is that the public good is being achieved via voluntary means. No one is being extorted through taxes, those getting help are being helped by real people void of state bureaucracy, and dependence on benefits is limited. Government welfare does not influence work or help to those who most need it and is vastly detached from the needs of the individual. Volunteer groups usually benefit their direct community, or one in dire need, through the work of average people. This directs the help from a complex, top down system to a one-way pipeline of goods and services to those who need them most. In a world of voluntaryism, these brotherhoods and organizations would be paramount to the benefit of all people in place of the current model.

The connective facet of each aid society or volunteer group is that the public good is being achieved via voluntary means.

Tangent to charity and volunteer work is the realm of business and the adjustment of price that would benefit lower income communities. Without state interference, people could use their resources and property to generate revenue that would potentially lift them from poverty. If someone did not have the means to do such, then they could sell their labor for a consented upon amount. These voluntary transactions would help provide for those that are suffering. Additionally, businesses would compete for labor and profit, meaning higher wages and cheaper goods for the general populace. The limited supply of money and goods would drive costs down due to price being reflective of consumer demand, leading to an overall benefit to all parties involved. Businesses would have no state enforced monopoly that allows them to be detached from the purchaser, meaning they would have to appease patrons in order to make money. Voluntaryism would promote free markets that better suit the needs of the consumer and do not leave them falling for enforced prices and involuntary transactions.

An example of the previous paragraph’s content would come in the form of the pharmaceutical industry. Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck, Gilead, Amgen and AbbVie are all companies that reside in the United States and are given monopolies over their market through the FDA and intellectual property laws (Compton, 2020). People could receive cheaper drugs if the market were not dominated by the same six companies, and if other innovators had the opportunity to benefit the healthcare industry. Instead, the state currently allows these companies to monopolize medicine and line their pockets with taxpayer and private dollars. Without these special protections they would have to modulate production for end users thus benefitting those with limited funds for treatment.

Another important facet of voluntary lifestyles is the internal locus of control that it propagates. People will have less ability to blame parties beyond their power for the circumstances of their lives, and the state would no longer be able to arbitrarily create criminals. Instead of leveraging power and violence, people will be forced to make good arguments for their causes and will no longer have the authority to condemn others for life choices that do not involve the former party. This will be especially important regarding victimless crimes, with an extreme focus on drugs and possession. What substances one seeks to put in their body is between them solely, however, the state does not see it that way. In fact, inmates with drug charges constitute 46.1% of the total prison population according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Poverty can tend to influence choosing alternative ways of making money, criminality, and substance abuse, and criminalizing that merely enslaves the poor to the prison-industrial complex. It is a vicious cycle, but not one that a voluntary world could not solve. The lack of arbitrary imprisonment would allow people to make money through unconventional means and use what substances they see fit. Aid for addicts would be given on a voluntary basis, as it vastly is through the innumerable private halfway houses and narcotics programs, though would perhaps lack the forced nature that the state uses to enroll people in such. A voluntary society would remove the life-ruining effects that the state imposes for victimless offenses, leading to a far more productive and happy society.

On another note, society’s problems can never be truly eradicated due to the nature of this broken world; however, through voluntary means, the blunt of disease, injury, death, famine, natural disaster, poverty, and loss can be better aided as each instance occurs. These unfortunate yet immutable facets of human existence can be better addressed when the person is the highest level of authority, and needs are handled on a purely individual level. It should also be noted that many problems in society would cease to exist due to the absence of an abusive and coercive state.

Money that is taxed from the poor can instead be used to care for their needs, an incentive to work and self-reliance would be bolstered, those experiencing financial woes could create new businesses which would flourish without state associated fines and permits, and intellectual property would not stop innovation from reaching areas that many monopolies feel are not worth the investment. The state creates innumerable societal issues that negatively impact everyone, especially those susceptible to welfare dependence. Adopting the voluntary lifestyle would combat regime dominance and put power in the hands of everyone instead of those who believe it is their right to dictate how everyone should live their life.

A voluntary life has choice as its cornerstone and freedom as its pinnacle.

Additionally, to think the state has aided in the end of societal issues, or has impaired such, is fundamentally flawed. Poverty is as rampant as ever, especially considering government intervention during Covid-19. Voluntaryism provides numerous ways to treat human problems and leaves the solutions to be as creative and individual choice-based as possible. The said philosophy does not provide a clear-cut, one size fits all solution to complex and nuanced issues, which appears to model the complexity and nuance of the individual. Government does the exact opposite by creating problems and enforcing poor, broad fixes that almost never truly address what they were intended to. The solutions to life’s multitude of calamities should be derived from free will and be given directly from the grace of those who seek to do good. An action cannot be good when the means to achieve it were wrought in theft and violence, as the perpetrator merely committed evil to benefit who they saw fit.

A voluntary life has choice as its cornerstone and freedom as its pinnacle. The world would function based on consent and aiding those who need it from a place of goodness rather than immorality. The ills of this mortal coil would not simply dissipate because the system has changed—however, the escapes from said ills would be numerous and not monopolized by a force driven entity. All solutions listed are but a drop in an endless ocean of creative, complex, and personalized possibilities for a voluntary society. This “perfect” world would never be truly utopic, however, the means to solve world problems would be morally justified. Voluntaryism is thusly the supreme societal format as it relies on the individual needs and wants of people rather than the needs of the elite beings elevated above all others.

 

Works Cited

Adereth, Maya, et al. “The United States Has a Long History of Mutual Aid Organizing.” Jacobin, www.jacobinmag.com/2020/06/mutual-aid-united-states-unions.

Baetjer, Howard. “Does Welfare Diminish Poverty?: Howard Baetjer, Jr.” FEE Freeman Article, Foundation for Economic Education, 1 Apr. 1984, fee.org/articles/does-welfare-diminish-poverty/.

Compton, Michelle. “Big Pharma – Drug & Device Companies, Lawsuits & Facts.” Drugwatch.com, 20 Apr. 2020, www.drugwatch.com/manufacturers/.

“Federal Bureau of Prisons.” BOP Statistics: Inmate Offenses, www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offenses.jsp.

Galles, Gary M. “33 Choice Quotes from the Great Murray Rothbard: Gary M. Galles.” FEE Freeman Article, Foundation for Economic Education, 2 Mar. 2018, fee.org/articles/33-choice-quotes-from-the-great-murray-rothbard/.

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Charity Never Faileth

Many people associate the word “charity” with classic Christian teachings about love and kindness. The apostle Paul said “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Jesus encouraged his disciples to love their neighbors and help the poor. Charity is clearly an important part of Christian teaching and living. However, many well-intentioned people confuse the charity and goodness that Christianity teaches with the welfare programs of the government.

This is an easy mistake to make. After all, doesn’t the government help people that are in need? And the money for that comes from taxes, so we shouldn’t complain about paying taxes, right? Many people who learn about voluntaryism and similar philosophies are impressed by the emphasis on individual liberty, but are concerned with what they perceive as a lack of compassion. A research scientist named Dr. Mary Ruwart phrased it this way in her essay “Arriving at Libertarianism”: “Raised as a Catholic, I could not reconcile the concept of ending tax-supported welfare with Christ’s admonition to love our neighbors” (I Chose Liberty p. 502).

Dr. Ruwart’s dilemma is one that is shared by many people. But once you realize that government action means force—violence—the situation becomes much clearer.

"If people needed helping, I should expend my energy to offer help, rather than forcing others to provide it."

“In considering this dilemma, I suddenly became aware of the pivotal point: although refusing to help others might not be very loving, pointing guns at our neighbors to force them to help those in need was even less so. Honoring our neighbor’s choice was more loving than the forcible alternative. If people needed helping, I should expend my energy to offer help, rather than forcing others to provide it” (ibid).

Dr. Ruwart realized the key difference, something that we at Voluntaryism in Action are passionate about: the voluntary nature of the giving. When you give to a needy person because you want to, not only is the needy person helped, but you are uplifted. In Christian terms, you come closer to God—and in anyone’s terms, you become a kinder, better person. Sometimes people say that government welfare and taxation just makes it easier to help the poor—but that’s why VIA is here! We and organizations like us exist to make it easier for you to give voluntarily. To us, it’s just another manifestation of how voluntaryism is a philosophy that really works. Or, as the Apostle Paul put it, that “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

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