The expression 'root, hog, or die' is is a stark reminder of life before the welfare state, when people had to work or starve. That’s why working used to be called "earning a living": it literally meant you'd need to work if you planned on living. How times have changed. Today many people think of work more like a hobby that should be pursued only if you find your tasks interesting and amusing.
Among the many surprising things to be learned from reading Rose Wilder Lane, is her description of a time when this was very real. You had to literally go out and plant your crop, or there would be no harvest, and you'd just have to starve. There was nobody nearby to come to the rescue. And yet, people chose to live in these conditions, and took pride in their self-reliance. I know, shocking.
They chose the freedom to root or die, even though it entailed some very real and serious risks.
Before the dawn of freedom, there was security, meaning that there was always someone to look after you, like the lord of the manor or, I don't know, the British colonial government that went all around the world making sure everyone was clothed, housed, fed and educated. They could do this, because it was an Empire, so they could do anything, really, using funds contributed by the lovely taxpayers. Sadly, those secure days are gone. Now we're all free and sadly, we have to fend for ourselves.
Many people today would argue that you don't need to pay for your freedom by leaving the old forms of security within the social order. In fact, a bunch of other alternatives appear to present themselves given that we live in the 21st century where nobody has to feel economically insecure unless they really want to.
One possible alternative available for those not in work is stealing, theft, fraud, and other nefarious ways of acquiring stuff without having to work for it. This is a lucrative option in theory. You could stroll around the market, admiring the wares, wander past the baker’s stall, and then when he’s not looking quickly grab a loaf of bread and run. Sounds easy, huh. Sadly, in practice if you try this you are likely to end up like Jean Valjean. Prison with hard labour for eleventy one years and then stalked by a crazy prison guard for the rest of your life. It’s not worth it.
So, recourse must be had to the government and the welfare state. This is definitely the most plausible and reliable alternative, and indeed government is widely seen as a source of sustenance. If you live in a wealthy country your government is there to look after you with money kindly donated by the taxpayers to help with redistribution efforts. If you live in a poor country you have to rely on the governments of rich countries to look after you through foreign aid programmes. This is the alternative chosen by the people of South Sudan, and so far it seems to be working out for them. They are still trying to figure out their own government, but in the meantime foreign aid is there to help.
The only problem with the government option is that you have to deal with government officials. There are forms to fill in, you have to tell them everything about your life (where you live, whom you live with, whether you have kids, etc - all very intrusive and personal stuff that you want to keep private) and you have to report to their offices regularly to give an account of yourself.
The trouble with going down that road is, it’s almost like not being free. Think about what your forebears went through, fighting to be free, and ask yourself whether you want to voluntarily put yourself back in shackles. Would Rose Wilder Lane's little shoat try to get back into the pen once it's been set free, just so it doesn't have to root? Of course not. In a poor country you have additional practical problems in pursuing this option, because your local government officials are probably going to steal all the foreign aid before you can get your hands on it. So this option, too, is quite uncertain as a method of sustaining hearth and home.
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