Yesterday I was forced into a brief explanation with a neighbor about one of my more peculiar financial arrangements – specifically, that I don’t have or want any bank account. For those few matters that require plastic, I prefer debit cards not in my name. They’re not as common as they used to be, and that has a lot to do with my reasons. “I prefer to have as little legal existence as possible,” I said.
In a friendly way, not at all challenging, my neighbor pressed me on the question. I had to think about my answer, because to tell the truth it isn’t something I really give a lot of thought. I’ve read the “libertarian” writers, though maybe not extensively and certainly not recently. Mostly they put me to sleep. I know there are lots and lots of buzzwords out there for what I (should have) said to my neighbor. Simple phrases that sum up mighty – boring – arguments. But I never bothered to learn them. I’m not really very studious. I suppose that makes me a “low-information” freedomista. So be it.
Still, the conversation did make me think about my reasons. And so my later thinking goes like this. When I was a little boy, I was taught that I was honored and blessed simply to have been born in this country. I was taught that America was the land of the free, the home of the brave. The birthplace and first, best home of liberty. I was taught that I was something special, a free being in a land amiable and benevolent toward the free.
When I was a little boy, I believed it. I can’t say just when I stopped believing it, probably it was a gradual thing. But I do know that as the sixties wore themselves out and I approached that special age when young men are “selected” to “do their duty,” I became quite angry. There was a war on, everybody knew about it, and I was prime, grade-A cannon fodder. I didn’t care about Viet Nam, whoever lived there was welcome to go to hell in his or her own way. They’d never harmed me, and I saw no reason to go all that way to harm them, just to push an agenda that was clearly not going to happen.
But I knew that unless I was very lucky or very clever, I certainly would make that trip. Because I was more afraid of my own government than I was of hostile strangers with black pajamas and outlandish rifles. If they sent me, I’d go. I was so afraid of the government I’d been taught as a child was there to protect my freedom, I’d walk into slavery to keep it from getting mad at me.
Long story short, I never really stopped being angry about that. The government that (I was taught) presided over the gentle laws of that amiable and benevolent land really only saw me as a resource, to be milked or expended. It would have made me crawl, and I would have crawled. I saw it as crawling. I see every act of forced obeisance as crawling.
I still do it, when I have to. So do you. But I hate to crawl. Hurts my knees.
I got lucky. Life freed me of family responsibilities while I was still hale enough to do anything but suck my gums and dream, and I got lucky with my friends. Yeah, I wore the chains for a while, during my “Mr. Suburban Man” phase. I don’t really regret that. A man should try every sort of thing at least once, if it isn’t too obviously destructive. It brought me my daughter, the only beautiful thing I ever made. But I never stopped feeling the chains, or their weight. And when a chance came to shuck them off, I grabbed it.
So I can reduce my “legal existence” somewhat and live almost every day as if I really were that free being I never really stopped assuming that I am. I live in the quiet, harm nobody, and sometimes even fantasize that this paradise is the way the world really is, the paradise I thought I was in when I was a little boy. I pay fealty when I think it’s owed, because there will always be greater and lesser people and many, many people are greater than me. Beyond that I recognize no relationship or obligation I don’t agree to. One-sided “social contracts” imposed by guns are an almost foreign concept in this tiny oasis, and that’s the way I like it.
Sure, there have been some trade-offs. That’s cool, nothing’s free. Maybe it’ll even lead to trouble in the end. But I’ve already lived a long time. And during this period, I’m a much happier man.