Wednesday, December 5, 2012


First, a quick explanation of some of my recent posts and the ones I am yet to write. I will be talking about controversial issues in a frank manner. This might make some feel uncomfortable at times - especially if what I write about bears some resemblance to them.

I want to reassure I'm not making judgements on how others determine their lives. I'm  using this space however, to verbalise some of the concepts I've had to process in order to make changes myself.

Onto the subject of individualism - let me start with another popular term of reference called, "self-reliance". It pops up quite a lot in the subjects I like to read about. Like all popular references, the meaning tends to change by who is interpreting it. Which brings me back to individualism again, and how we like to accept certain realities on our own terms.

I won't leave self-reliance just yet however, as it's one of the issues I've been trying to understand lately, in the society we share. Self-reliance is an attempt to be more capable, more equipped and prepared for one's needs in life. This stems from an individual pursuit, therefore it's a personal attempt at self-reliance. What I have found self-reliance is not however, is removed from economic reality.

To put it another way, every individual action, plays against a back-story which has been playing since time began. That entire back-story (no matter where the individual enters) is not devoid of others or shared resources.  I'll use a specific example here - government subsidies.

In our old suburban house, we used many government subsidies (State, Local and Federal) in the form of rebates on purchases which were deemed as having "sustainable" attributes. There were many on offer in Queensland. They were intended as a productive step as a community, to address Climate Change. Government subsidies can be quite useful if they're organised sensibly.

But there is also a dark side to government subsidies, consumers aren't always eager to understand. Government subsidies are paid for by Shire, State or Federal revenue, depending which government is offering them. The back-story here is, it took a pool of resources to take up the "self-reliant" option as an individual.

That same pool of resources however, has to pay for Hospitals, Public Servants wages, Libraries and other important infrastructure.

If I may quote Margaret Thatcher (1983) former British Prime Minister, "There is no such thing as public money, there is only taxpayers money".

When individuals rely on government subsidies to be more self-reliant, they are utilising a pool of tax collected from the majority. So it cannot really be claimed to be an individual pursuit. Why am I pointing this out? It can be easy to believe in writing our personal story of individualism, that the back-story belongs to us too. But it seems hard to accept we arrive where we are today, by the input someone else performed before us.

I personally have accepted government subsidies because they were on offer in the past. I have used doctor's appointments I may not have needed, but wanted reassurance, because I knew it was going to be charged to Medicare (not me). At the time, I accepted those financial benefits because they were on offer and I thought I should use them.

Once I realised however, that a public resource is a shared one, I started to be more selective in how I accepted government subsidies. I turned down the solar panel subsidy which was on offer, because after researching the details, I realised only a portion of the State was going to receive the financial benefits (the consumers of solar panels) but the cost burden was to be shared by everyone.Which meant the hospitals would have to give a little to the consumers of solar panels, the libraries and public transport too.

There are genuine cases for government subsidies and/or benefits. Like people with a physical or mental disability which need help accessing the community. They really do need those shared public funds, to help them achieve what most healthy people can take for granted. There are also many government programs to help people start their own small business. But all these benefits/programs/subsidies are intended for an economic return, back into the shared resource pool.

When I assessed the possibility of a solar subsidy however, I realised the scheme was all about personal financial gain. I wasn't expected to give anything back for the contribution others made. That made me feel, not only like I was encouraged to be a thoughtless consumer, but one who didn't have to think very far beyond my own wallet.

That is the ugly side of subsidies and I've received a few. It wouldn't be wrong to receive a subsidy if (a) you genuinely needed it, and (b) it helped you contribute something of equal value, back into the shared pool. What so many government subsidies on offer do today however, is keep us expecting we're entitled to freebies from invisible, limitless pockets. They especially use the excuse of Climate Change because it's a popular topic with voters.

But there are no such things as invisible, limitless pockets, and we can see the way the various tiers of government are handling their revenue. We see it whenever the teachers and nurses go on strike to receive a fair wage. We see it when we visit the hospital emergency room and have to wait hours to receive attention. We see it when prices go up across the entire business community when government implements more taxes.

The reason they have to increase the tax revenue, is because they're spending it on popular voter issues. Sadly, the increased taxes doesn't always reflect into real price increases for updating hospital equipment and the like.

I've been a recipient of those consumer freebie subsidies from the government in the past, and in all honesty I could have afforded those purchases out of my own pocket. I just would have waited a little longer to save for them. It always feels more like self-reliance that way too. I know the difference, as I've saved for things before government subsidies came along, and we are saving for things now.

The more individuals become dependent on government subsidies as a way of making ends meet, the less we are expressing our true individualism, and in fact becoming less self-reliant. How many of us actually want to view it that way however? I know I have refused to see it as dependency in the past: I saw it as my entitlement because the subsidy was directed at me and what I wanted. When it came from the government too, it's easy to forget they're taking money from taxpayers to pay for consumer wants.

I decided to explore my true individualism and experience making ends meet without government subsidies. I want my purchases to mean something more than entitlement: which is what so many subsidies have driven us to feel. I'm referring to subsidies specifically used to purchase goods for the home.

In the good old days, you had to work for what you wanted to put on, in or around your home. I want to be more like an old fashioned consumer. I don't want my home smothered with the latest green bling, I'd rather see the green back in nature. Or at least if I did purchase what I thought would help reduce costs to run the home, I'd want to pay for it without fast money. That way I have the opportunity to spread my consumption over an entire lifetime, not just how much I could fit in the next 12 months.

Imagine how much of the environment would be preserved, if we all spread our consumption over a lifetime, rather than purchasing everything we can in the next 12 months?

I've made a couple of important decisions recently, which I hope will see us through the next decade or more. First, I wanted to stop borrowing money from banks and credit lenders - we've done that. Second, I want to set money aside for necessary purchases (water tanks, an all-weather driveway, wood heater, etc) and we're close to meeting a target for one of them. Third however, and it's only been a recent addition: we want to stop borrowing from government revenue. It's like a public owned bank, only they own the public.

That's not my idea of self-reliance at all.


  1. Government subsiies have been on my mind alot since our ladt e,ection and becuse the Republican party re trying to cut " entitlements' to the poor while leaving the ones for the rich or upper middle class in place.

    Self reliance to me is deeply misunderstood. I once took it to mean completely free of outside inputs. I was wrong. We will always be interdependent to a degree.
    Personally, I will take from government what I need to take without hesitation. I mean that literally- " need". This has amounted to barely anything over the years. Recently, I got the grant to start a business.....
    I could do it anyway but most of the money will go to assistive technology based on my handicaps- things I cannot afford and a business planner too. I think these types of overnment assistance are important.

    I do respect your point of view of course.

  2. You've covered both my points well. Subsidies should go to those with a genuine need, not those who can afford to buy stuff.

    I know you applied for your subsidy based on need. It was assessed and approved, based on need. The kind of subsidies I'm talking about however, are relegated to consumers who can afford several thousand dollars to purchase a product, in order to qualify for receiving the subsidy in the first place.

    I sympathise with the middle class, I think I qualify (just) but it's a bit ridiculous we've come to expect there's no such thing as a "real" cost to what we buy any more. It's not genuine need, if we can afford several thousand dollars.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love reading what you have to share. Gully Grove is a Spam free environment though, so new commenter’s only leaving hyperlinks, will be promptly composted.