john hoffman on dumpster diving and the underground economy

I don’t know that Hoffman’s economic analysis would hold up in a court of law, but I’d rather we dissembled those anyway. So here is a very long quote from The Art and Science of Dumpster Diving:

“It’s a great feeling to have somebody hand you CASH MONEY for an item you found in the trash. I rarely become as excited about my paycheck as I become over a few bucks from dumpster loot. It’s like a created that handful of cash.

“Best of all, when I receive cash it is untaxed. The underground economy triumphs again. Being ‘junk’ or ‘secondhand,’ the items are sold for less than merchandise at the retail outlet. This contributes to driving all prices down, and allows people on the economic edge to acquire otherwise unobtainable goods.

“Best of all, this allows people on the fringe of society to continue leading unconventional lives. When I sell an old pair of gym shoes for 50 cents, some mega-corporation suffers. The tax collecting retail whores suffer. The coercive tax-collecting apparatus suffers. And, perhaps, some radical has shoes to carry on his good works. I hope and will it to be so. …

“This is another reason I donate unsaleable items to my local Goodwill. I’m not interested in charity for pathetic parasites. I see organizations of this nature as radically subversive. Think about it: as long as anybody can obtain clothes for a buck and books for a dime, they can avoid working a dehumanizing slave job to obtain their basic needs. Thus, they pay less taxes. The government pushes harder to collect more taxes, radicalizing even more people. Far be it from me to provoke government coercion, even by a letter to the editor or a nod of consent. However, when I read that the government has committed yet another coercive act, I nod and say, ‘Good! Good!’ Things do not change until a general level of discontent is achieved.

“In our overly-regulated and coercive society, the majority of businesses are simply fronts for the government. When you shop at K-Mart, for example, you are supporting a multi-billion dollar entity that jumps through hoops for the government. If the government demanded all persons buying books show proper ID, K-Mart would slavishly obey the edict. Don’t pity the ‘poor businessman.’ He’s a whore for the government. You may as well be shopping at the IRS Store, Inc., instead of IGA, KFC, L.L. Bean, 7-11, whatever.”

I wish that corporations were still (were they ever?) whores for the government. Seems to be the other way around these days, eh? Hard to say which way ’round is worse.

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