Parallel Economy

First, I’m indebted to Franklin Sanders for the title of this piece.  Several years ago he mentioned this phrase that has stuck with me.  In fact, it did more than stick with me, it verbalized in two simple words a good portion of what Vaughnshire is; at least in this generation.
Beth has posted many articles on couponing and shopping wisely in our current economy.  At the same time we are also gardening, raising our own beef and chicken, and milking our own cow.  These in a nut shell are the two economies we live in.  On the one side, we are exploiting the folly of the industrial model by leveraging their own marketing strategies and on the other we are working to become self sufficient and community interdependent by producing our own food and trading with other likeminded families.
Currently in America, both options are at least marginally legal.  As the corporate practices continue to put people’s health at risk for the sake of profits, there will continue to be broad sweeping laws.  These new laws will continue to place an undue burden upon small family farmers and communities that wish to engage in a free trade and barter economy.
If we look back at Russia in the last century, we see a legally sanctioned economic system operating in parallel with what came to be known as the black market.  When the official economy could not provide the basic necessities of life, people turned to the black market.  Many economists and government pundits will try to blame the rise of black markets on people not wanting to pay taxes.  I would claim the rise of the black market within a sanctioned economic system is a sign of that system’s failures.   
Today in America we have a legally sanctioned economy with an appearance of a free market.  However, the truth of the matter is there are far more government regulations imposed upon the economy than most realize.  Most regulations serve to protect the economy under the pretence of protecting the people.  (A point I will endeavor to prove in a future post.)
The fact of the matter is we just want to live on our land, raise our children, and enjoy the fruits of our labor as a Christian family.  When we raise our own beef, we don’t use the government “recommended” chemicals and drugs.  It is not because we are being antagonistic to the government or disrespectful to big industry experts.  It is simply that we have studied the issue and found these practices are not needed on a small farm and some of these practices can actually be hazardous to our health.  At the same time, if there are going to be a thousand cows in a small building they are going to need certain drugs just to stay alive.  These are dangers we simply don’t face on a family farm.
No one would really have a problem with us raising our own beef, for the most part.  But the trouble comes with the “enjoy the fruits of our labor” part of the statement.  Once we have produced something, we should be able to benefit from it.  For instance, if we have friends on another farm who use the same organic type practices in producing raw milk we should be able to trade something we produced for something they produced.  We are exchanging or enjoying the fruit of our labor.  But, if we offer a side of beef to these friends in exchange for a few months of milk, all of a sudden we are at risk of breaking laws and operating in a black market economy.  But yet, this is the very essence of Christian community; to be able to serve one another and provide for the needs of one another.
Many believe by engaging in this kind of free market community focused exchange we are hurting the sanctioned economic model.  The assumption is that if we did not buy good healthy beef or milk from our neighbor, then we would be buying the hormone fed simulated beef from the corporate farms.  The fact of the matter is, we would go without, before we would consume most corporate animal products.
There are some areas where we are unable (or unwilling at this point) to go without some items from the corporate economy.  For these items we take advantage of the competition between the different corporations or we buy second hand.  There is indeed a science to the marketing and advertising these corporations do.  As such many moms are figuring out an inside track to this and are saving thousands of dollars a year by exercising a little discipline in their shopping habits.
The down side of this is as the economy becomes more depressed the government will be under more pressure to do something about it.  Historically one of the first things governments have done in this situation is go after those people not participating in the economy.  I predict there will be more and more high handed investigations into the small family farms.  At the same time the corporate farming practices will continue to come home to roost and this trend will push more people to seek safer food options for their family.  This will further strain the corporate economy and the governmental oversight of the food industry.  We will see more organizations like the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
That might all sound a little depressing and I confess in some regards it is a bleak outlook for America.  But there is an upside as well.  If we begin to develop community focused food options either locally or regionally, we will be far more secure from outside economic interruptions.  Not only will we be more independent, we will be eating much healthier if we know where our food comes from and the practices used to raise it. 
Of course this is only dealing with the food industry.  What about housing, transportation, Medical services, clothing, or education?  There are a lot of challenges facing families in the coming generations.  By God’s grace we will discuss more of these soon.


  • Meredith_in_Aus says:

    I’ve always wondered about this couponning thing. We don’t have it in Australia. While it would be nice to get something for nothing (or be paid by them to buy their stuff!), it just seems too much like stealing for my conscience. I don’t mean to condemn you for it; I haven’t really investigated it. I’d like to hear more of your argument for it – not that I’d have the chance to use it! Ha! Anyway, I feel another interesting discussion with my dear husband coming up!
    Blessings to you, in Him
    PS LOVE the blog

  • Kristin L. says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the last several weeks, and look forward to more! The information you share gives me a lot to think about and helps me process some of the many thoughts I have running around in my brain in regards to Christian living, and a more frugal lifestyle.
    While registering to comment, I found a blog that posted a really nasty comment about your lifestyle and your choices about how to live. I refrained from posting my own POSITIVE response on that site because I didn’t know if I would be able to do it with an appropriate attitude.
    I just want to let you know that I am grateful for your willingness to post about things that can be quite controversial.
    Also, in response to Meredith_in_Aus, I wanted to say that using coupons is a completely legal (and industry encouraged!) way to get free or reduced price items 🙂 Many manufacturers/companies send out their own coupons (unsolicited) and individual stores do the same. It is the same concept as a sale, but requires that you have a coupon in order to get the sale price. HTH 🙂
    Thank you Beth and Paul 🙂

  • BethTN says:

    Meredith in AU — Wow–Australia doesn’t have coupons!
    This is one of the few things I enjoy about the corporate economy in America. 😉 Coupons for everything are everywhere here…
    …for the purpose of luring buyers into the marketplace to buy stuff—it is a strategic move on the part of manufacturers and stores to get people to spend their buck on their product or at their store.
    Many frugal moms, have turned this around by not getting caught up in the spend, spend, spend system and are using coupons wisely–shopping sales, using coupons, using rebates and timing their purchases as to get the best bang for their buck. Many times this nets us drastically reduced prices or free items as a reward for our wisely thought out plan and strategy.
    Every week the U.S. newspapers are filled with various coupons–big department stores issue coupons, restaurants issue coupons and other stores issue coupons as a marketing strategy to get people to come spend money with them. The weekly newspapers also contain coupon inserts which consists of basically a booklet filled with nothing but coupons for various products—food, household, pets, haircuts, eyeglasses — you name it.
    A very common item for sale once a year here are these massive books (passbooks) with nothing in them but coupons for all manner of everything (restaurants, oil changes, clothing, car rental, hotels, grocery stores, zoo and museum) — and people pay a pretty penny for them because of how much it will “save” them in the long run.
    Companies like it when people use coupons and in fact…encourage it. Many American grocery stores advertise that they accept coupons and many of them proudly print in bold letters across their weekly ads something to the effect: “We double manufacturer coupons everyday!! ”
    In fact, when I go the the grocery store and use a coupon—that store submits it back to the manufacturer and is reimbursed the face value of the coupon, plus a .8 or .10 cent payout per coupon. It is a win situation for the store.
    If a store runs a sale on a certain product and if I use a coupon on that product–a coupon that the manufacturer sent me to use via email, snail mail or issued via the paper– It is perfectly legal and moral to use that coupon to save me money out of pocket–that is what they are for! And if the product happens to be less than the coupon amount—the store is still getting reimbursed the value of the coupon plus.
    One store in my area actually sends out a sale paper each week and matches up the recently released manufacturer coupons with their store rebate for that week and gives you the price you pay if you use the coupon and rebate. Many times they have several things in their sales paper that they advertise as FREE — all you do is come and get it–using the coupon and submitting the rebate. At this same store it is not uncommon to hear the check out lady say, “Do you have any coupons for this???”
    I have even had a check out lady (who was a couponer) pull out one of her own extra coupons and give it to me to use.
    Of course, I have also run into those check out people who do not understand the concept of couponing and think you are doing something illegal or taking their own personal soap—
    So–the point— couponing is completely legal and is in fact encouraged here in the states by most grocery stores and manufactures who issue the coupons. The fact is a small amount of people actually coupon regularly and so many do not know how really. There is a art and science to it—once you learn it–it can be very beneficial to the household budget!
    hope that explains a bit how it works here???

  • BethTN says:

    Kristin– about the nasty comments… We do get those around here!!! 😉 In fact, most would be very shocked at some of the comments we get in response to our humble blog and the convictions we have. It amazes me how living a simple, yet deliberate life can really twist people up into a rage–but it does.
    Thanks for the encouragement though!

  • PaulTN says:

    I would just add a simple thought to the couponing discussion. Such strategies are not the sign of a healthy economy. The assumption is usually that the corporations are trying to compete with one another to get our business. However, the truth may just be that the products they are marketing are not worth buying and are not needed, or the people have less money to spend and need an incentive to buy them. Either way, it doesn’t sound too healthy.

  • Meredith_in_Aus says:

    Thanks for your time in explaining it. :o) We have various sales here – lots of regular (ie. every 3 weeks) ones offering 20-50% off eg. ladies clothes etc. This leads me to think that the regular prices are FAR higher than they *should* be (assuming you weren’t ripping off your production labour force or raping rainforests etc – not that I’m a rabid “environmentalist”). Why would anyone sane pay full price (except in an emergency)?
    We just don’t have the ability to get it for free. :o( I guess you’re right that the majority of people just don’t bother/aren’t organised enough to use them well.
    I would absolutely agree that none of this is the sign of a healthy economy. What ever happened to charging a fair price. Must we con the consumer into buying ridiculous waste-of-time products (like frozen pre-boiled rice, for goodness sake!).
    I also agree that most of the stuff they have on offer (we get offers for bonus *points* at your particular humongous retail chain if you buy a certain number or dollar value of product) is just a waste of money/not worth buying.
    Anyway, I appreciate hearing the differences between our countries. And I LOVE hearing your deliberate-life stories. Sorry if I’ve rambled on too much!
    In Him

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