How to Drop Out:
criticism and response

Creative Commons License
The original essay is here: How to Drop Out

Isn't it hypocritical to use the resources of a system you oppose?

No. Hypocrisy is when you say something is wrong for others to do, but you do it yourself. I've never said that it's morally wrong to participate in the present system. My position is that it's a tragic collective mistake that we need to work our way out of. I do think it's tactically wrong to participate in it more than you have to, but different people have different tactical opportunities. I understand that many people are more stuck in it than I am, and I'm using my relative freedom to try to help them.

Anyway, what's wrong with using the resources of something you oppose? If you were in a prison camp, wouldn't you look for ways to avoid forced labor but still eat? As I said in the essay: it's not about being pure or avoiding guilt -- it's about adapting and becoming more free.

Isn't it a contradiction to preach independence while accepting help from others?

Certainly not. We have been confused by the many meanings of the word "dependence". I think it's good to be dependent on equals, on friends and family with whom you have a healthy relationship, and it's good for them to be dependent on you. The kind of dependence that I'm against is where someone has you over a barrel, where you have to do what they say because if you don't, they will withhold something that you need. The essence of "dropping out" is to cut dependencies on a system of power-over, and replace them with dependencies on a system of power-with.

But you use the internet!

Again, the reason to avoid connections to the system is to maintain autonomy. So I'll use any by-product or resource I can, as long as there few or no strings attached. I'll especially use a resource like the internet, a powerful tool for learning and finding allies. As William Kötke said, not only is it acceptable to use the resources of the present system to build the next one, ideally all its resources would be used that way.

Dropping out is elitist because not everyone can do it.

But everyone can do it, just not right away. It might take thousands of years, if humans don't go extinct first, before all of us can live in societies that are sustainable and non-coercive. Meanwhile, we all have to do the best we can, and take any opportunity to get a little more free. The key is, when you get more freedom and autonomy, you have an ethical obligation to help others instead of exploiting them.

Isn't living with somebody without paying them anything called "mooching"?

Yes, it is called that, because we live in a slave culture with a slave language! Before the 20th century, it was normal for extended families to live in the same house, with most of them supporting the household in ways other than paying rent -- if rent was paid at all. The very idea that you have to pay to occupy space is radical, and it serves to concentrate power: if I already have power (represented as property), those with less power/property have to give me more. We have it backwards! It is the owner who is more likely to be getting something for nothing.

What if everybody dropped out? Who would you scavenge off of?

In practice, the problem is not too many people looking for different ways to live, but not enough. The dumpsters still contain good stuff that is not scavenged but wasted in landfills. Too many people still buy pre-made junk food instead of making their own healthful meals, or drive cars instead of riding bicycles. This world is full of people with the skills and knowledge to build paradise, but they can't even begin, because they would lose their jobs shuffling data in the command structure, or manufacturing attention-wasting gadgets, or laboring to provide excess to the elite. As these roles are dropped, life might get easier, not harder.

Health care is not a manufactured need but a necessity.

Good health care is a necessity, but the industrial medicine that we call "health care" often does more harm than good at enormous expense. A good book on the subject is Medical Nemesis by Ivan Illich. Another good book is The Health Of Nations by Leonard Sagan, which presents evidence that modern improvements in health and life expectancy have not been caused by medical technology or even by better sanitation, but by social and psychological factors.

(last revision December 2012)