Solutions for Self-Reliance

What? America’s Poorest Towns Outlaw Economic Self-Improvement


Here’s something that makes me a little angry.

Everywhere I look, I’m finding the same thing:  In some of America’s poorest towns, it’s currently illegal to become resilient.

Wow.  This means that the people who can benefit the most from vigorous self-help are being denied the freedom to do so, by towns that are wedded to a dysfunctional past.

Take the example of Jason Canfield.

Jason owns a home in Holland Township.  Holland Township is a small town in rural Michigan with a per person income of only $16,000.  As a point of reference, that’s about 50% of the per person income of Americans (a level of income that hasn’t changed in 38 years! which means we’ve been doing something wrong nationally, for quite a while).

Jason wants to become more resilient.  He wants to increase his family’s food security and improve his future.  To accomplish, Jason started small.  He decided to raise chickens and turkeys to feed his family.

What happened next is perverse.  Due to pressure from some of his neighbors, the Township is now forcing Jason to get rid of his chicken coop, 26 chickens, and 3 turkeys.

It appears that there’s an artifact of industrial suburbia in place that prevents him from becoming productive.  A town zoning ordinance that decrees that raising chickens on less than five acres is illegal.  Raising chickens is designated a “farming activity” that can only be done on parcels of land over five acres and zoned for farming.

What?  Essentially, this ordinance means that being productive or engaging in economic self-help is a crime unless you own five acres of land.

What makes this particularly painful is that in a large and growing number of more well-off US communities — communities with family incomes three times higher than Holland Township — there aren’t any restrictions on raising chickens.

Here’s an important message to Holland Township and other towns like it:

DON’T make resilience a crime based on notions of what a home and community used to be in a fading industrial era.

Instead, make it easier for your community’s residents to produce the food, energy, water, and products it needs. Build the platforms that allow members of the community to more easily export what they produce. Embrace the future and the prosperity it offers.


Victory Gardens?

Remember when nearly everyone was encouraged to produce more of what they needed locally?  Here’s a picture from WW2’s victory garden program (Boston Common, 1944)

Something to think about:   It’s amazing how quickly and how easily most of the people in the developing world gave up any claim to economic independence at the individual and community level.   It’s also amazing to contemplate how quickly this independence will be regained in the not too distant future as financial turbulence and environmental disruptions increase in frequency and severity.  The good news is that we can produce nearly everything we need at the local level better than we do at the global level right now.  All it takes is the decision to do so…


Making Products Locally

Lots of people don’t get the degree of transformation underway in making things.  You know, the products that we use every day.

They look at 3D printers and the things they make as toys.  Granted, it does look that way.  Here are some items produced by the “Rep Rap Vision.” An open hardware project by Matt Underwood in Mahomet, Illinois (the project was funded on Kickstarter — Nice!)

That’s a mistake.  The ability to make products locally is going to get much better, very quickly.  Remember, not too long ago, the products we bought from China and Japan looked very similar to the above:

They don’t anymore…  Just something to think about.


Your “Helping You Prosper Sooner than Later” Analyst,

John Robb


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