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5 Controversial Ways to Enjoy the Decline of America

"Captain Capitalism" wants you to tune in, drop out and go Galt.

Kathy Shaidle


March 5, 2013 - 7:00 am

Is America in decline?

I’ve been hearing the United States compared to the Roman Empire since around the 1970s, and I’m sure those apocalyptic sentiments were being expressed long before I was born.

However, it’s difficult to read and watch all the depressing stuff posted here on PJ Media and elsewhere and not conclude that, this time, it’s on.

America’s going Gibbon.

Some books propose possible ways to avert this catastrophe.

Aaron Clarey’s Enjoy the Decline isn’t one of them.

As his subtitle suggests, this book is about “accepting and living with the death of the United States.”

It’s full of counterintuitive, amusing, and sometimes infuriating advice:

What country should I move to?

What should I pack in a bug-out bag?

Why don’t black people go to national parks?

This book features something to offend everyone.

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#1 — Don’t save for retirement

Clarey — who blogs as “Captain Capitalism” — writes:

In 2008 Argentina stole the private pensions of its workers, nationalizing those funds to deal with their own debt problems. Bolivia did the same in 2010, as did Hungary. And Bulgaria did their own scaled-down version of confiscating people’s private pensions in 2011. (…)

Unfortunately, the Democrats took note of what Argentina did in 2008 and have since bantered around ideas of rescinding the tax benefits of those programs, even outright nationalizing them.

Until very recently, the whole notion of retirement didn’t even exist.

Then governments decided to curtail restless citizens’ revolutionary sentiments – in Germany, America, and elsewhere – by doling out goodies such as old-age pensions.

Of course, 65 was chosen as the retirement age because few people lived to be older than 65 anyhow.

In other words:

No one was ever even supposed to collect this money!

Private- and public-sector pensions are unsustainable Ponzi schemes.

Retirement is a fad. Having a retirement plan is like having a “hula hoop plan” or a “Charleston plan.”

Clarey and I agree: the government is going to seize your savings, assuming you have any left come seizure time.

If you must, Clarey advises, invest in gold, silver, copper, and land – although I don’t see why the government can’t just as easily seize that too. They’ve done it before, from Roosevelt to Kelo.

Clarey “jokingly” recommends the “Smith and Wesson Retirement Plan,” i.e., suicide.

Like him, I don’t see the point in saving money your whole life just so you can bankrupt your family trying desperately to stay alive for the last six (crippled, diaper-wearing, mush-eating) months of your life.

While I’m not prepared to go as far as Clarey (yet), it’s true:

My retirement plan is death.

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#2 — Don’t go to college

Clarey (and I) have written about this before.

Take all the money you were saving up for college and start your own business, as long as, Clarey writes, it isn’t “something stupid like ‘horse farms’ or ‘coffee shops’ or other such profitless hobbies that only morons pursue.”

Alternately, he advises, join the military or learn a trade:

Another benefit of the trades is that trade certification is a lot cheaper than earning a four year degree. Most trade programs are only two year, granting you an associate degree in that field, and nearly all of them offer better employment prospects than your average liberal arts degrees because they are a “skill.” Additionally, because they are a “skill,” you are immediately put to work. A friend of mine graduated with a degree in auto mechanics. His first job wasn’t not filing or faxing or fetching coffee. He didn’t have to “work his way up” to being a mechanic. And there was no ass-kissing or brown-nosing required to ingratiate himself to his bosses so they’d be kind enough to let him finally start wrenching on cars. His skill was too valuable and his employer needed him to do what he was trained to do — work on cars.

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#3 — Don’t earn more than $15,000 a year

I grew up poor and now I have money. Having money is better.

I also dated a guy like Clarey once: a brilliant, handsome, thoughtful thirty-something man who still had roommates, shopped at thrift stores, drove a motorcycle instead of a car, and so on.

His goal was to live on very little because he valued his freedom from convention, bosses, and the taxman.

(Eventually I married a guy who made way more money and owned a car.)

When we think of “going Galt,” we think of it as something only rich men can afford to do.

Clarey cleverly turns that notion upside down, and posits the idea that you can actually go Galt faster the less money you have.

When you remove yourself from the tax rolls, you stop hosting society’s parasites – the tens of millions of citizens who suck on the government teat:

In making only $15,000 a year you are essentially shrinking yourself (the host) so much that the parasites cannot live off of you. (…) You will no longer get mad when you see another ringless mother buying diapers with an EBT card. (…) It’s no longer your money they are using to pay for it. It’s somebody else’s. You may still be unhappy about the general direction of the country, but at least you’re no longer a sucker who has to pay for it.

Clarey’s on to something.

It’s sad but true: I find myself trying to make less than a certain amount of money lest certain taxes kick in.

But Clarey’s number — $15,000 – is way too low for me.

(I live in Canada, which is a comparative tax haven. Sorry, Land of the Free…)

Like much of Clarey’s advice, this minimalist plan can only work within a narrow framework of circumstances.

Good luck getting your mom back and forth from chemo on the back of your Harley. In December.

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#2 — Don’t have children (sort of)

Again, I’ve gone over this.

Here’s Clarey:

While I’m not saying “don’t have children,” children are very expensive “stuffs.” The average kid costs $250,000 to raise and that doesn’t even include college tuition. Also, unlike your X-Box or your computer, they bring in communicable diseases. I have also found out that they do not have “off buttons” and the authorities frown on it if you try to sell them. If you already have children or you really want children, by all means certainly have them. But if you can do without, it certainly makes Going Galt a lot easier.

Many writers insist that the best way to reverse the decline of the West is to increase the birth rate.

The trouble is, having children is one of the biggest excuses people use for not fighting for free speech and other Western values; they’re afraid their kids’ teachers will punish them for having outspoken parents; they might lose their job (and therefore their precious dental plan, and those kids need braces, you know…)

And besides: have you seen (and heard) some of the kids people are having?

I’m not convinced that creating a new crop of conformist, politically correct, helmet-wearing, nut-allergic, obese citizens is really in America’s best interest.


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#1 – Plunder

In the tradition of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, Clarey’s Enjoy the Decline includes a chapter about how to get stuff for free.

Hoffman’s hippie handbook offered advice about now-anachronistic scams like phone phreaking, and gave addresses to free clinics that apparently most of his readers didn’t visit until it was too late.

Clarey, on the other hand, gives out the websites that spell out what kinds of federal, state, and local handouts you can get.

His rationale is spelled out in the Ayn Rand quotation that opens the chapter:

Whenever the welfare-state laws offer [the victims of looters] some small restitution, the victims should take it.

I’m guessing that even with Rand’s imprimatur, most of the proudly capitalist libertarians in Clarey’s readership will be most put off by this chapter.

Clarey insists that “the debate about being an independent, self-reliant individual is moot”:

It’s not about morality, it’s about reality. Most Americans really have no choice. Since the government has become so large, it’s almost impossible to live an entire life without collecting some form of government assistance. The reality has been forced upon you by a short-sighted and ignorant electorate. (…) You can decide to take advantage of it or be taken advantage of.

If you’re always complaining that books about “the end of America” never offer possible solutions to the problem, that’s one thing you can’t say about Enjoy the Decline.

Whether any of Clarey’s suggestions are practical or even morally sound is a decision only the reader can make.

Why not read it and see what you think?


Image courtesy shutterstock / Marijus Auruskevicius

(KATHY SHAIDLE is a blogging pioneer who runs FiveFeetOfFury, now in its 15th year. She's been called "one of the great virtuoso polemicists of our time," by MARK STEYN. Her NEW book is Confessions of A Failed Slut (Thought Catalog, 2014).

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Top Rated Comments   
Whole subject is depressing. But don't have children? I can tell you that your children are the only thing of real worth you have done. All the rest is fleeting as well as trivial.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a surfer, I disagree with Clarey’s premise, that the best way to go is to ride out the wave for as long as possible before it expires into the sand.

“Going Galt” doesn’t mean to die as painlessly as possible without extending the agony of life more than necessary, but to regroup and reconquer.

There’s ebb and tide in human affairs.

After four more years of economic misery, the country will be more responsive to voting Socialist bums out of office. (If not four, then eight. If not eight, then twelve. But eventually, the economic pain and the legal restraints on liberty will be too much to endure, like in the former Soviet Union.)

In the meantime, we must regroup, not expire. Eventually, enough citizens will wake up, and we’ll reclaim our freedom from government tyranny. Long Live Liberty!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (44)
All Comments   (44)
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Is this written as satire? Tongue-in-cheek? That is how I interpreted it!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Anybody showing a clip with Bill Whittle is OK with me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
OK, I got through (1). Retirement is not new? Does anyone ahve a sense of history anymore? Retirement was always around; it was the age when you were physically incapable of working. And the classic retirement plan is that your sons (thus the age-old aversion to daughters) would take care of you. (See: "not having children".)

I will have to work until I am 70 or starve to death. But I am not sure I will be able to work until then or much after. I would, however, be like to live past then, do the things I never had time for while working. (No, that isn't silly, plently of my relatives did this.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am OK with most of what you wrote except for the part about not having children. Beyond their emotional and spiritual value, the are also pragmatically important.

None of us can get by alone. We all need as much help as we can muster. In a world where the state is our slave master we have to look to our families and friends for help. And no one is more closely bound to you than your children. They are the people who will be young and strong when you are old and weak. They need you you when they are young and you will need them later.

Therefore instead of investing yourself in paper or dead things it is far better to invest in your family.

My advice would be to have at least 4 children, for their protection and yours.

The figure you cite of $200,000 to raise a child is only meaningful if you plan to play the class game of status in the suburbs of the big cities. Since your advice is to opt out of that, it does not apply.

Children are cheap, they are small and can be stacked up like cord wood. They don't eat much and if you have a garden and a couple of chickens, they can do much of the work.

As for paying for education, you said to not go to college, so that is a big lump out of the way. Clearly, you must keep them away from the politicized and toxic environment of the public schools, so you must home school them. Further, it is advantageous in reducing taxable income. One spouse can stay home to school the kids and the other one can work.

In order to live on minimum amounts of cash you are going to have to buy clothing and furniture from thrift and second hand stores, and they always have lots of stuff for children.

As I see it the rewards of having children are enormous and the costs are trivial
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not a bad start: these ideas are in the wind already.

No college? Perhaps. Everyone realizes that you have to have a defined skill set which is why you have so many cooking and fashion shows. Competing requires real talent and training. No sunflowers need apply.

As to money, well get a job with an indexed pension fund. No need to plan for retirement, and the money becomes almost a sinecure.

As to children, well you can't really do much for them, so why bother. In fact you would be lucky to get a place of your own. I think that is why the European birth rate is down. You can't get a nest so live at home.

As to plunder, well, you just don't support the commons, that is the best definition.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Instead of Going Galt, Be Joplin. Imagine whole neighborhoods and towns full of good decent hard working people with real useful skills working together to survive and rebuild. Learn useful DIY skills and be generous in sharing those skills with others. Learn how to live well on less money. Participate in the barter and cash tax-free economy. A simple first step is to pay your tips in cash and watch the positive reaction. Don't be tempted to accept the "government cheese". When the collapse finally happens, be among those prepared to pick up the pieces and rebuild.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
With all due respect, "Galt"-style libertarians are not the same type of people as classic conservatives at all. They are in fact somewhat similar to classical liberals. Frankly as a paleoconservative religious nut I have more in common with many leftists than I do with the Ayn Rand set.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Frankly as a paleoconservative religious nut I have more in common with many leftists than I do with the Ayn Rand set.

Care to elaborate?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
#1 Saving for retirement
I just hope we can get our retirement out before it's worthless.
#2 Going to college.
I agree that the local tech school is as good, or better than the university. More boys seem to be choosing this option as their percentage has dropped in 4 year schools. My daughter is pursuing Nursing at the local tech school.
#3 $15,000
Since I can basically set my own salary at my job, I do keep it down so as to qualify for lower tax rates. We are taking every step to be as self-sufficient and unnoticed as possible.
#4 Don't have children
This one is absurd. No hope in this life makes family and children the only joy left. And raising three fabulous, conservative-activist children is my best revenge. Oh, and the claim that children are cost-prohibitive is silly.
#5 Plunder
We qualify for nothing except education help. However when I get the time I'm going to apply for everything and then be rejected. I used to feel guilty about using any kind of "help" because I didn't ever want to be a drain on the nation, but not anymore. I consider it my form of civil disobedience to crash the system as fast as possible. I do sympathize however with those of you more traditional patriots who are appalled at my actions. But I went through my mourning process last November saying goodbye to everything that used to be right and I really don't care anymore.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A conservative Claude-Piven strategy?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I live for more than the well-being of the United States. The meaning of my life is to serve my God in whatever circumstances he places me and to raise my children to live for principles above their own immediate self-interest or survival. Others' mileage may vary, of course. And Shaidle, maybe you imagine your kids as helmeted whiny losers, but I assure you that mine are not, and they are being raised to own the future.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This all sounds really cool and interesting... right up to the point they chain you to the galley or whatever other device they need manual labor for.

It all reminds me of something Kenneth Clark said in Civilisation about anyone who thinks barbarism is preferable to whatever we have today. Shivering in the dark when the sun goes down isn't all it's cracked up to be.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, many people have no sense of history. It's one advantage of having an education consisting largely of studying a 2000-year-old lawbook based on one over a thousand years older than that, with copious descriptions of life at the time. It gives you a sense of perspective.

There are many worse things than living under Obama. Or King George III. Or even the Czar.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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