Country Living Series

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Activist or freeloader?

Here's an interesting article which caught my eye this evening.

It seems a young German couple couple is managing to live without money. "A Berlin family of three has been living on practically nothing but love and the goodwill of others for more than two years and counting," says the article, "not as a victims of the rough economy, but as activists who are on a money strike to protest what they call our 'excess-consumption society.'"


I thought, "My goodness, how lofty and resourceful they must be." However upon further reading, it seems this "resourcefulness" largely depends "on the goodwill and excess resources of others."

In other words, mooching.

The profile of this couple blows hot and cold. On one hand, I certainly can't argue with many of their philosophic points about how wasteful, materialistic, and over-consumptive western society is. I have shelves full of books arguing that very point. And they are unquestionably doing odd jobs and freelance work to "pay" for living spaces and doctor bills. There's a certain attraction about being so free-spirited and unencumbered in a world where most people are laden down with possessions. And it's not like they're forcing anyone to barter with them or share their "excess resources" (except, arguably, government resources).

But at what point does this free-spirited lifestyle descend into mooching? How convenient that Germany offers "universal medical care" (paid for by...whom?) as well as "child support" received from the government (which, the article hastily adds, is "granted to all children" -- paid for by...whom?).

As one commenter posted at the end of the article, "This guy reminds me of someone who's trying to quit smoking - they still smoke, only they smoke other peoples cigarettes."

In fact, most of the comments were negative. "Who are these hippies?" someone posted. "Money is hampering our dreams? How do you think the people who show you goodwill and charity are ABLE to show you goodwill and charity? Though the money they earn at their jobs."

Am I misjudging these folks? Are they being truly resourceful or merely freeloading? Where's the dividing line?

34 comments:

  1. I am automatically suspicious of them. Yes, I agree that there is much waste, and that we tend to own many things we do not need, but I do not think much of "activists". They tend to want to change society toward more collectivism, more socialism... and that's what they seem to be.

    As for their little project, it does sound as if perhaps they are actually working for some of what they are getting. Trading services for services is just as good as trading money for services, in my book.

    My main issue would be with the idea that it is okay that they get money from the government for the baby, and that they get universal health care. This makes everyone who gets these things moochers off of everyone who pays the taxes that pays for it all. Since he doesn't have a regular job, he's not even paying taxes into the system he collects from.

    So they despise the excess of individuals and companies, but support the excess of government.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember reading a story about a man and wife that lived in the woods off of what they could grow or catch. When the wife got cancer the husband was incensed that the government expected them to help pay the bill. His response was, 'how selfish of our society that they would not pay for our medical care.' I was so angry that these people felt it was our responsibility to work in the city to earn money so they could enjoy their life in the woods. This is how I feel about this couple in Germany. They have found a way to get others to do the work they should be doing. The people that put up with it only perpetuate the problem. I totally support helping those that are truly in need but not someones greed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. To me it sounds like they are free loaders who are more than willing to use other peoples resources that they have worked to achieve. The couple is promoting their activism to make them look good. Still just users.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think this is just freeloading. By comparison, There's a guy, relatively well known in tech circles, named Andrew Hyde. (http://andrewhy.de). He travels around with only what he can carry, and it's quite minimal at that. But he works wherever he goes. He also published a book about his travels, which provides additioal income. He's an entrepreneur trying out an extreme minimalism lifestyle. It's a lot different mentality.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think this is just freeloading. By comparison, There's a guy, relatively well known in tech circles, named Andrew Hyde. (http://andrewhy.de). He travels around with only what he can carry, and it's quite minimal at that. But he works wherever he goes. He also published a book about his travels, which provides additioal income. He's an entrepreneur trying out an extreme minimalism lifestyle. It's a lot different mentality.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Helping someone in need is noble and good. Providing for people that are making a statement or lazy is questionable. What could be the motive to encourage this behavior? Perhaps the people that are "helping" them agree with their statement....or maybe they haven't put much thought into it. How does their statement make a difference in the society.

    We do not live in a vacuum. Everything we do has consequences. Helping those who can help themselves or deciding to manipulate others into helping you.... consequences. Not always good consequences.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sounds like freeloaders under the cloak of frugal living. Their country has the socialist programs in place which allows it. Not much different than our welfare system, just another way to take advantage of others

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sounds completely above board & Christian to me. Except that the forcible, compulsory and coerced taxation of others is paying some of their bills instead of loving Christian charity.

    In another time and place they'd be called monastics or holy religious pilgrims or Christian zealots.

    Jesus made no qualifications when he said:

    “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” Luke 3:11

    ReplyDelete
  9. Phyllis (N/W Jersey)February 22, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    Now the story about the family that lived in the woods in Russia for decades were truly free of our 'excess-consumption society." Let's see if this young couple could do the same. They still depend on the government and charity for handouts. I don't think she spun the wool for the scarf around her neck. They got their 15 minutes of fame - forget about them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. http://www.amazon.com/The-Moneyless-Man-Freeconomic-Living/dp/1851687815/

    This is a great book about a guy who lives without money for a year. He goes to great pains not to mooch off others during his year long experiment. To the extent that he wouldn't let a friend buy him a beer. Unlike the couple in Germany, he wanted a sustainable lifestyle, not just a cheap one.

    ReplyDelete
  11. These idealistic exercises are silly. Basic economics says that the only way they could do this is because other people generate a surplus or more than they need, which allows them to give some of the excess they are not using to this family.

    If everyone by choice or circumstance produced exactly what they need to survive then there would be no excess and thus nothing to give to this family for them to live off of.

    While I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to do minimalist living and taking steps to minimize your own consumption, eliminate waste, etc. you need to produce at least enough to carry your own weight.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The first rule of conservation is "Don't buy it", but the rules don't say "depend on others to provide the necessities". If they were truly interested in not wasting, they would earn enough to provide for child care and medical care and provide for the rest by things like dumpster diving, barter of labor,etc. As it is they are free-loading on child and health care and looking for handouts from people who may be less capable of working than they are.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Reminds me what Margaret Thatcher said:

    “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.”

    I believe 100% in charity and giving to others. However, without resources, I can offer nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have known people like this and they make me want to shake them silly! They think they are much better, idealistic, above all of us grubbing for the "All mighty dollar" oh, and by they way can you loan me a few? Many people I went to college with were "Working for their Art" and would not let "society define" them. Yep, I worked for the man, waitressing. I earned my money, paid for my college, and gave them rides in the car I also paid for, but yeah, I'm bowing to societys capitalisms standards.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Just plain moochers-if they were working and conserving their own money as best they could-that would be different. I have no problem with helping someone in need, but I don't help freeloaders.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Resourcefulness uses YOUR OWN assets and freeloading uses other people and their assets.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I say they are freeloaders. They basically are working the system and get what they want and just attach their own label to what they want to call it. If they truly lived off the land, grew their own food, bartered with others, and refused government handouts, that would be one thing. But they are still using government services, which they aren't paying into. And they also are taking handouts from others. While I agree society is wasteful and people don't need as much "goodies" as people want, unless you live in the middle of nowhere, with no property taxes, and produce all your own food, you do need to rely on money to survive, whether it be your own or someone elses.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Reminds me of the vatican. They live in luxury at the expense of everyone else. If they REALLY cared about poverty they would sell some of their million dollars paintings to feed the poor. This couple can continue with their "lifestyle"as long as someone enables them to do so. Amazing what a person can do IF they get hungry enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who gets to choose who the poor is? Are these people considered the "poor"? Do you think the Catholics should sell their multi million dollar paintings to help THESE types of people? Few if any other charities do as much as the Catholics. Could they do more? Cannot you.

      The problems of this world are created far more by the moochers than the Catholics...Don't even try to make that comparison.

      Tim

      Delete
    2. If the Vatican sold all its "wealth" away, it could maybe feed the poor of the world for a day. After that, the beautiful works of art would be gone, sold away to private collectors so the world would not have them to enjoy. And the poor would be hungry again. Not only that, but the Vatican doesn't just house the paintings, it also pays to maintain them so that future generations can continue to enjoy these works. Not only that, but many famous artists GAVE the Vatican those works of art, and who are you to say what someone else should do with the gifts people give them? You have shown yourself to be no better than the free loading family in the story, cursing the wealth of others.

      Delete
    3. Do you think that the Church commissioned million dollar paintings? Which ones would sell for millions of dollars? Are you referring to the frescoes in the various basilicas? How do you propose that the Church remove them to sell? After all - they are painted on plaster that is adhered to the walls. They would be difficult to sell as painted pieces of plaster.

      I am a member of the Church. I am quite proud of our record on feeding / clothing / sheltering / doctoring / loving / ministering to the poor throughout the entire world.

      Sorry that you don't agree. Don't send us money if you don't like how we spend it.

      The Church isn't always perfect. No doubt about that. But she has nothing to hang her head about when it comes to loving the needy.

      Delete
    4. Your church can no longer say, "Silver and gold have I none." But, you cannot say, "Rise up and walk." Millions of poor who are suffering from lack of medical care and proper food give your church money so that all the male hierarchy can live a life without care and build extravagant churches. Those over the Catholic church are freeloaders, too.

      Delete
  19. Goodwill of others ...... sounds like charity or welfare to me. There was a similar couple in Mother Earth News. Bubbling about low income services yak yak........ all I could think was, "get a job, I don't want to pay for you!"

    ReplyDelete
  20. "...about how wasteful, materialistic, and over-consumptive western society is. I have shelves full of books arguing that very point."

    That's funny, right there.

    Leatherneck

    ReplyDelete
  21. "...about how wasteful, materialistic, and over-consumptive western society is. I have shelves full of books arguing that very point."

    That's funny, right there.

    TC

    ReplyDelete
  22. There is a religious group - some call it a cult, but I will reserve judgement - that is commonly known as the garbage eaters because they choose to subsist on food that is thrown away by restaurants and food stores. They try to live "in the world but not of the world" by not using money, services etc.

    Now, I can't say I approve of them and their doctrine. But, unlike the folks in the article, I can't help but respect the fact that they sure seem to be putting their money where their mouth is!

    Ralph.

    ReplyDelete
  23. moochers, freeloaders, gypsies, whatever you want to label this couple as...bottom line is they are doing their best to avoid reality.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Kant's "categorical imperative" provides a guide, here.

    "Would it work if everyone did it? Or does it only work because very few do it?" In the former case, it's reasonable to call it a "sustainable" lifestyle, whereas in the latter, you're really just a freeloading coward.

    There's nothing wrong with minimizing one's own consumption. But mooching off friends is only viable as long as you have friends willing to live the surplus-generating life you look down on. (Don't count on those people staying your friends long, as you mock them.) And, even if one accepts the hypothetical morality of taking money and personal services from the government at all, doing so when one refuses to pay taxes is profoundly hypocritical.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Boom - if everyone in Germany lived like this couple, they would run out of money in short order. The sentiments expressed may be admirable, but the reality of their actions means that they have to live on the money produced by people and the methods that they claim to disdain.

      Delete
  25. I lived in Germany for many years, not as part of the military, and the system is very...."generous". I am sure some of the things that they are taking advantage of can be seen as freeloading - why work if the system pays for it all?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Activist or Freeloaders?

    You stinker. It's some kind of a trick question, isn't it?

    :)

    A.McSp

    ReplyDelete
  27. Although I agree that they're government free-loaders, one comment by the father is very good:

    “Children need from parents love, attention, time. All these materialistic things are really ridiculous,”

    I couldn't agree with him more on that point.

    ReplyDelete
  28. They are akin to 30 year old children still living with mommy and daddy. In this couples world activism and laziness are the same thing...

    ReplyDelete
  29. There is a male blogger who travels to different continents, flying with his fiancé, carrying only their clothing, laptops and minimal books. He gleefully brags that wherever they live, the don't even have to have sheets or pots and pans because their "friends" give them things. His main points are you can live well, travel, blog about it and live with very little money. He depends on a little free-lance computer work for money for flights. He delights in freebies so he does not have to work more and can enjoy all the sights of the world I would love to see. I quit following his blog because of his attitude. He also has loads of "stuff" stored at his parents home as does she. I have no respect for him. Lots of people live off others, but please, don't brag and try to get your blog audience to pat you on the back.

    ReplyDelete