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04/05/2003 Archived Entry: "Voluntary Simplicity"

On the Political Front:

A detailed account of yesterday's military events in Iraq. On non-military matters, the Iraq Daily offers headlines that cover events in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Palestine, as well as Iraq.

News from Baghdad is breaking too quickly for me to keep up...even if everything being reported is trustworthy. As I write at 3:00 a.m. EST, US soldiers are said to be in the center of Baghdad...Iraqi TV totally contradicts the US report.

Everyone is tired of bad news, including me, but that's what is on the horizon. Instead of just complaining, I intend to provide resources to encourage people to become informed, self-reliant, and safer. First, however...the bad news.

The economy is cracking, largely due to the stress of deficit spending on the war and terrorism. "A growing number of companies, searching for ways to cut costs, are suspending their matching contributions to workers' 401(k) retirement accounts." The list now includes giants such as Prudential Securities, El Paso Corp., CMS Energy Corp., The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Ford Motor Co. and Tech Data Corp. Businesses are also cutting jobs."U.S. companies slashed 108,000 jobs in March following huge cuts the month before [357,000] as war in Iraq battered the economy at home." The good news (maybe)..."the overall civilian unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent...Fewer people looking for work appeared to be a factor in the unchanged rate from February to March. The number of people who said they were no longer looking for employment because they didn't think any jobs were available increased to 474,000 in March, up from 450,000 in February." The stock market remains jittery, partly because it is not clear whether the US will expand its geopolitical role by attacking other targets such as North Korea and Iran -- the possibility of which the White House has more than hinted. A slate of "policymakers are eager for regime change" in those countries. And critics argue that the Administration's request of nearly $75 billion to pay for war in Iraq and homeland security is only a down payment. The price tag could soar if the U.S. embarks on a far more activist geopolitical strategy. How much? International economists at UBS Warburg came up with a rough calculation in a recent report: 'Our admittedly crude guess is that the broadly defined military budget [encompassing homeland security, foreign aid, and other 'nation-building' programs] could more than double from 3.5% of gross domestic product to as much as 8% to 9% over the coming years.' At the higher end of their estimate, that translates into federal budget deficits of 8% to 9% of GDP, far higher than during the post-World War II highs of the Reagan years."

The government keeps spending. The US House of Representatives just approved almost $80bn in financing for the war in Iraq and for the start of reconstruction. The bill had an interesting amendment: "none of the money for rebuilding should go to companies from France, Germany, Russia or Syria - countries seen as implacable opponents of the US pursuit of the war." Also interesting is the fact that the White House lobbied against the amendment, perhaps because it hindered US ability to negotiate with certain nations or weakened already strained relations with them.

People will have to look out for themselves financially because the government will not be there except to pick their pockets. I have become a fan of Voluntary Simplicity, a term that does not mean "doing without" or depriving myself of anything. Voluntary simplicity means identifying what enhances my life by running a sort of cost/benefit analysis. For example, I drive a ten-year old little chugger of a car that I *love* -- (it was the first new car I'd ever owned) -- and I'd battle anyone who tried to make me "upgrade." But, quite apart from sentimental attachment, the car makes sense re: cost/benefit. As one VS site declares, "You�ve heard it before: 'time is money.' But it is not true - time is better than money!" In many areas, I trade away money (earning potential) to acquire time. I ask "is it worth x hours to buy y?" Unfortunately, VS is often burdened with a "hippie" type ideology or a pop psychology slant, both of which are totally extraneous to the idea of paring your life down to the people, things, and activities you value. You don't have to adopt a rural lifestyle, be an environmentalist, become a vegetarian, reject technology... You can use the methods without sharing the oft-present politics, which I don't care for myself. I remain pro-technology, a carnivore, a skeptic about environmentalist claims, hostile to pop psychology...and someone who demands "luxuries" like books, movies, live theatre, vacations.... I pick and choose which types of frugality I practice. If frugal living is something that appeals to you, this is a good, free site to start browsing: The Dollar Stretcher: Living Better for Less. Beware the multitude of sites that try to sell you products!

On the Personal Front:

Freezing rain has turned into snow, convincing us to "hole up" in the house for a few days and concentrate on work...with good results. For example, and at last!, the scanning, proofing, and formatting of "XXX" was completed near midnight, with a few touches still needed before I can post it here, on my homepage, hopefully later today. I had forgotten how blunt that book was in some places. Wow! My personality becomes gentler as I age -- even tho' my principles remain basically the same -- and I don't think I could write a book with XXX's edge today.

Quote for the day:
"Of all the enemies to liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people." [Fuller Quotation]
James Madison from "Letters and Other Writings of James Madison".

Best to all,

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