Monday, March 15, 2010


THE CONSEQUENCES OF NO SAFETY NET---LIBERTARIANS TAKE NOTICE. A quarter mile ahead is the border town of Algodones, Mexico, famous and invaluable to the mobile 2 million. I park here and pedal my bike in for 2 good reasons.
Here's one: I save $5---$12 if I have my trailer with me.
Spray paint artist are a minor draw for the tourist.
Trinkets and do-dads everywhere
Here's an internationally known place of scandal---the famous Green Door Lounge--a front for a bordello and strip bar.
But here's the big draw of Algodones---DENTIST an estimated 300 of them in this tiny 5 block square town. I've been coming here for 20 years for inexpensive dental care. (root canal about $200---crowns from $125 to $250. Other services like optical, pharmacuticals and alcohol are proportionately as cheap.
I use Dr Rubio (ph 011.52.658--517.7849 ) who heads a sizable team of specialist--no less than 6 specialist worked on me this time replacing a post and crown.
So what do I want the libertarians to notice? This house for starters--home of a very wealthy person. And then--just a block away:
This!---Here is a consequence of very weak social consensus---A whole nation of people acting (largely) on the premise that each person and family are only responsible for their own well being---little or no social safety net. It's every person or family for themselves. The notion that (to some extent) "WE ARE ALL IN THIS LIFE TOGETHER" AND IN SOME SENSE OUR BROTHER'S KEEPER." Is alien to Mexico. Not surprisingly-- the bounteous benefits of collective action are lost. Illustrated here are weak zoning laws in addition to the obvious poverty . A minimal government society will have big winners and big losers as illustrated--with its inevitable consequences--social unrest--unbridled greed--wealth pyramids and dynasties. I remind my "greed is good" friends that during the French revolution the wealthy aristocrats were dragged from their mansions and beheaded. Surely we can invent a social philosophy somewhere between extreme capitalism and extreme socialism. Think you would find these disparities in socialistic Norway. (with the highest standard of living in the world. Note the steel reinforced international boundary in the background silent testimony that the philosophy of every one for themselves is a failure.
Here's that formidable barrier stretching for many miles. I walked a stretch of it.
Very soon however--this truck drove up to investigate me. Note the 4 inch steel beam construction---anchored in concrete and welded to wide plates at the top. Anything less would soon be destroyed by the Mexicans who resent the wall. ("something there is that doesn't love a wall")
An older section of the wall---notice the manned observation tower on the American side---I did not suspect they were focusing on me--but they were as you will see.
Another one---they are mobile--mounted on a truck---they scurry around.
Cars exiting Mexico--as seen from our side. The line was one quarter mile long. Passports required.
Bike riders go to the head of the line and I was allowed to pass through---then suddenly this truck cut me off and a team of Border agents surrounded me. With firm courtesy they wanted to know the purpose of all my picture taking and border walking. Took about 20 minutes worth of passport checking and examination of my camera to persuade them I was harmless. I took photos of them approaching me and they asked that I delete them because they do dangerous work and are subject to retaliation. I did so---I understand. We chatted awhile--they reported that vigorus enforcement had reduced incursions by 90%---I doubted that but don't really know.


Rob said...

An excellent commentary.

Japhy said...

I'm sure you don't really believe Mexico is an example of libertarianism in action. And I'm not sure it's fair to judge an entire political philosophy based on some minor implementations of a "few" aspects of the greater philosophy as a whole. It's like pointing to the failures in medicare as proof of how government regulation of healthcare cannot work--it's just not a fair criticism.

I will say this, as someone who considers himself a libertarian, most libertarians nowadays are greed obsessed defenders of a big corporatist economic system that has no tie to what a true free market is. Likewise, most libertarians talk a good game about private charity, private aid, but never do a bit of it themselves.

What they fail to understand is that libertarianism in our current culture just won't work. We must have a culture that fully embraces helping others and social responsibility in order for libertarianism to really work. This status obsessed materialistic culture undermines libertarianism rather than helping it, and libertarians would be well served to just focus on making their communities better as a way to advance their political aims. They forget, government only exists where there is a failure of others to provide solutions. We must work to provide those solutions, and overreaching government will go away on its own.

Of course, most libertarians are just conservatives who have realized its not cool to be conservative anymore, and are trying to claim an ideology they don't really believe in fully. But libertarianism isn't just free market economics--it's a social philosophy of individual and social responsibility.

John Galt said...

By the way, thank you for always taking the time to make these thoughtful and thought provoking posts. I always find myself checking your site eagerly to see if there's another new post. :-)

Japhy said... second post came up using my google account. I note the irony!

Randy said...

Wow Japhy! Very well said! You've shed new light for me. "we must have a culture that embraces helping others and social responsibility for libertarianism to work". (i.e. better culture would increase liberty and diminish government--but not the reverse--hence culture is the better starting point?) Do you have a blog I can read?

Japhy said...

Well thanks. Yes, I have a blog, but it's mid-renovation and only has one post up right now. I hope to get that fixed soon.

Paul said...

Randy - I enjoy your blog. I'll leave political discourse to the deeper thinkers. What I was taken by was that when you parked your truck on the Calif side of the border prior to your bike parked directly in front of a No Parking sign! Anarchy!

Adam said...

I stumbled across your blog after traversing, so the Thoreauvian lifestyle you and others are trying to pursue is my obvious interest. But musings on government are always nice, and I was interested by your take on Mexico. I wonder why a laissez-fare (more social than economic) system works in a place like Slab City, but not in a country? I suppose it has something to do with size--a larger unit would be more difficult to control, and individual charity isn't as frequent when you don't see the person every day.
Just something to think about.

rita said...

Great post.

On leaving the Rio Grande Valley in Texas this year, had to pass through a record number of border inspection sites. At one, just past Falcon State Park, they even wanted to look inside my trailer. They seemed to be doing this to all the rv's.

One of your messages is from John Galt. I just finished trudging through Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". There is a character in it named "John Galt". Everyone keeps asking "Who is John Galt?" Just seemed a little ironic seeing the name.

Randy said...

To Adam and Rita--Thanks for your Input. Adam: Truthfully, the extreme freedom of the Slabs is funded largely by the taxpayers as most of its inhabitants receive some sort of government grant--usually $600 of SSI each---with no rent to pay it is enough to subsist nicely (even stay high on booze or whatever)
Rita: Kudos for trudging through Atlas Shrugged--I managed also. I've no doubt that the commentor to this blog took that user name to signal his affinity for Ayn Rands philosophy.

Japhy said...

Well let's not get too carried away, Randy. ;-) I enjoyed the book, and have a certain amount of sympathy for some of the political implications, but I'm not particularly enamored with all aspects of her philosophy.

Jude said...

Waited most anxiously for your next post (since you moved on from the Stealth Trailer). Enjoyed the "Border Town Drama" BUT what I really want to know is. . .How is the new trailer?

Randy said...

Hey Jude (bet you get lots of that)
I'm loving my new trailer--enjoying the comforts, the interesting challenge to make it sustainably sufficient and boondockable---am almost there---may do a blog on what it takes to turn an assembly line trailer into a truly livable unit. Also am devising fresh stealthy tactics.