What Ails You, Economy?

The Keynesian is ever mistaking economic activity for economic growth, credit expansion for wealth creation, profligacy for progress. Growth, wealth, progress. He uses his own definitions of each to reinforce his definitions of the others. And they are all fallacious.

When the Austrian tells the Keynesian that the printing and spending of mere pieces of paper cannot lead to more wealth in society, the Keynesian retorts that it is undeniable that credit expansion and stimulus lead to more economic activity. In this he is technically correct. Printing more dollars and handing them out to those who would consume and invest them, does indeed lead to “activity,” even more perhaps than there otherwise would have been.

But our Keynesian assumes, or assumes that his audience will assume, that mere economic activity is growth, is wealth, is progress. Presumably this includes even that activity which our Austrian rightly considers overinvestment (more properly, malinvestment), overconsumption, and/or the proverbial breaking of windows, each of these a common side-effect of the Keynesian witchdoctor’s remedies (often intended to cure ailments caused by earlier interventions, some Keynesian, some not).

If the Keynesian’s definition of economic activity doesn’t (oh, but it does!) include these things then the burden of proof is on him to show that his prescriptions lead to more real growth than would their absence on an unhampered market. And that his incantations lead, on the whole, to economic health rather than disease. A free market is largely unencumbered by the ailments mentioned above so in order to do this it would need to be shown that the sicknesses that do affect it are somehow worse than those caused by intervention.

And to be sure, pure economic freedom isn’t perfect. It has its own share of maladies. But these are all coughs and sneezes by comparison. Cures, if they are needed at all, come from the market itself. The economic meddlers and potion peddlers only serve to make things worse.

We must admit that not even on the most unfettered of markets does all economic activity lead to growth. For human actors err, and the market punishes their errors. How much more is all this the case under a centrally-planned expansionary-monetary/stimulatory-fiscal regime? And how much more severe will be the punishment?

Was I too Rash on Juries and Nullification?

I made a certain statement (a status update, not a comment) on Facebook, and in retrospect maybe it would have been better to have made it more intelligible (okay, and less harsh as well). Now instead I must go through the statement line by line and clarify and defend it. I don’t know if it is good blogging etiquette or not to drag Facebook into it, but this started out as a clarification for the Facebook crowd and transformed into something to big to post there. We’ll see, I guess. Here is the statement I made:

Idiots (to speak kindly) who call others cowards for trying to get out of jury duty, thereby eliminating the less than 0.00001% chance that that person might have to actually “help their fellow man” are perhaps no less dull and collectivist-minded than the feverish nationalist buffoons who make similar statements about “serving” overseas. The purpose of today’s “defense” system is to murder innocents abroad. The purpose of today’s “justice” system is to incarcerate innocents at home. Any person who wants no part in this is not only not a coward, that person is a hero. Anyone who says otherwise should put their money where their big, loud mouths are. How brave and principled are you really, huh tough guy? Quit yer bitchin’ and show me! Get the hell off of Facebook and the comments sections of blogs and put your own life and livelihood on the line.

This all started when a Facebook friend (a very well-known person in certain circles, but I guess I won’t bring up his name) mentioned he had been “conscripted” for jury duty. This interested me at the time because it was just days after I had sent in my own paperwork for jury duty (this would be the second time, click here for my thoughts on the first). As is usually the case with this particular person’s statuses, the comments section was on fire. But the debate was at least a little more civil than the one that took place in the comments section of a blog post that someone linked to in this Facebook thread. It was an article by the estimable Douglas French of  Laissez-Faire Books and the Mises Institute recounting how he had gotten out of jury duty by telling the lawyers in the voir dire process, and later the judge, that, if made a juror, even if he thought the defendant guilty, he would not convict. That even if he was the only such person, he would hang the jury and nullify a bad law.

To my surprise he was accused in several comments of being a hypocrite and a coward because he chose not to perjure himself in order to get on the jury so that he might actually nullify, rather than do as he had done by merely telling off the judge and the attorneys. Sure, some of these commenters concocted clever ways whereby Mr. French could have (hindsight is 20/20) spoken ambiguously in order to get on the jury and then nullify without technically committing perjury but doing this would have required not only premeditation, but also that the person (in this case a humble economist) perfectly answer any objection brought up by the two (three, if you count the judge) cross-examining lawyers in the voir dire process. This would be like expecting the Oakland Raiders to beat the New York Yankees. In Yankee Stadium. Playing baseball. That’s nothing if not an “undue hardship.” Despite having this explained to them (on both the blog and on Facebook) there were those that persisted in their stupidity and their rudeness. Their argument at the end of it all amounted to, “so what, you’re still a coward.”

Now let me explain what I meant by my original statement, line by line:

Idiots (to speak kindly) who call others cowards for trying to get out of jury duty…

These specific people really are idiots in my estimation. Not because they think jury duty might be a good way to help your fellow man, but because they readily abuse others who don’t think it is all it’s cracked up to be, and because, even after the latter view point has been soundly defended, still won’t make room for the fact that other people might have more important obligations (or even trivial druthers) than being at some magistrate’s beck and call all week, pressured into agreeing with 11 other people on something that might be worth disagreeing on.

…thereby eliminating the less than 0.00001% chance that that person might have to actually “help their fellow man”…

I am referring here not to pronouncing a “not guilty” verdict on falsely or mistakenly accused innocents (which is why juries ever came about in the first place, I believe, and is a very admirable thing to do), but specifically to hanging a jury thereby nullifying bad law. In order to even get on a jury to do this you basically have to lie in voir dire, which is perjury. The 0.00001% may or may not be exaggerated, but you don’t exactly hear about jury nullification every day so I bet it’s not too far from the mark. If I had been talking about mere “not guilty” verdicts this would be way off. That number is probably more like 50%.

…are perhaps no less dull and collectivist-minded than the feverish nationalist buffoons…

These jury-shamers I am talking about appear to be primarily libertarians, a group of people who seem to pride themselves on being bright and individualist-minded, so comparing them to those they despise the most (basically various shades of Neoconservatism, but in a pinch, Democrats who think Obama deserved his Nobel Peace Prize will do nicely) is the ultimate dig.

…who make similar statements about “serving” overseas.

The kinds of statements I am referring to in my comparison of jury-shamers to Neocons/Obama-Peacers are analogous to jury nullification, not analogous to “not guilty” verdicts. So maybe I’m talking about a person who admits in some cases that innocent people die even in the United States’ wars, but for the most part it’s just the bad guys. And then maybe, as if that didn’t make them look foolish enough, they make some statement to the effect of, “You can disobey immoral/unethical orders without being accused of insubordination, then court-martialed and punished.”

Note that these immoral/unjust orders might still somehow be lawful, or that even if they are unlawful, there is still pressure from command and your peers to carry them out. But let’s not be coy: just because something is done by the book does not mean it is right or correct or even excusable. Having rules of engagement may be better than having no rules, but they are no substitute for not invading and occupying in the first place.

The purpose of today’s “defense” system is to murder innocents abroad.

Collateral damage is murder, so even if these wars are motivated by good intentions, that’s what’s going on. However, I don’t think we should give the same exact Powers That Be that we accuse of being malevolent at home the benefit of the doubt by assuming that they are somehow benevolent abroad.

The purpose of today’s “justice” system is to incarcerate innocents at home.

This is somewhat different than saying that the “defense” system’s purpose is to murder innocents abroad. While there may be collateral damage of sorts, that is not what I am talking about. Here, I am talking about bad law. You may be “guilty” of breaking the law, so in that sense the purpose of the “justice” system is to incarcerate the “guilty”, and not as I said, the innocent. But this assumes that the laws in question are all good.

That is quite an assumption to make about the government of the supposed freest nation on earth that happens to have the highest incarceration rates in the world. The elephant in the room here is the Drug War. Most of us can agree that drugs are generally bad news, and that the violence associated with drugs is even worse news, but far too few seem to realize that this is just the natural result of prohibition. Surprise! It didn’t work with alcohol, which, according to some metrics, is FAR MORE DANGEROUS than certain hard drugs, but somehow these people thought it was going to work with pot and heroin? In a post-1960s world?! What were they smoking?

Any person who wants no part in this is not only not a coward, that person is a hero.

Freedom of conscience. That’s all this is. Would we want to live in a world where people are led to believe that exercising this right somehow makes them spineless (again, we can all agree on something, that just having your conscience tell you something doesn’t make that something right)? Well then, just open your eyes. Look out the window. Turn on the TV (the only channel immune to this might be the Weather Channel). People with an actual conscience or actual principles are laughing stocks. They are the ultimate fools in the eyes of the world. And for that, yes, even the ones I disagree with, they have my respect.

Anyone who says otherwise should put their money where their big, loud mouths are.

Here I’m only applying the same standards to the accusers that the accusers are applying to the accused. Judge not, that ye be not judgedThou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eyeTherefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to themPhysician, heal thyselfHe that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.

How brave and principled are you really, huh tough guy? Quit yer bitchin’ and show me! Get the hell off of Facebook and the comments sections of blogs…

Well, it sounded good at the time. But as a wise guy once told me, “vulgarity is no substitute for wit.”

…and put your own life and livelihood on the line.

In the case of “defense” and the military, especially in time of war, your life is on the line. No one disputes that. In the case of jury duty, especially when you perjure yourself in order to nullify bad law, it could very well be your livelihood that is threatened. But even where there is no perjury or nullification going on, there is still a case to be made that your livelihood is in danger.

I understand it is the situation in probably most states that your employer cannot fire you (and may even be made to remunerate you in some way) for taking time off for jury duty. Were it not for this law (which places burdens on employers that arguably shouldn’t be there), there’s at least the possibility that you would not be retained/paid for this “time off”, especially if your employer was not particularly fond of the unjust and immoral incursions of the government into everyday life. And why shouldn’t your employer be able to look out for his own best interests, even if it means firing your sorry behind? Does he “owe” you your job, indefinitely, no matter what? If it wasn’t for our crummy system and you were to be fired or lose pay because of jury duty, would your instinct really be to blame your employer? Not the people who conscripted you for jury duty in the first place? Or not the people who made life so miserable for some so-called criminal that you felt it was your duty to aid that person by nullifying the bad law he was being tried for breaking?

Additionally, since jury duty, unlike the military (these days at least) is something the state compels people to do (ultimately backing up their threats with actual guns, prisons, and larceny), telling these loud mouth accusers to put their livelihood on the line needn’t mean they have to serve on a jury (something they cannot do unless called upon). It could very well mean instead that they go out and agitate through means of civil disobedience: resisting arrest, harassing magistrates and LEOs, and so forth. Don’t act so surprised by these seemingly bizarre suggestions; we are talking about libertarians here, after all. And civil disobedience, though not quite so much as actual violent acts (only justified in self-defense, need I remind you?), can very well land you in the slammer and/or ruin your reputation as a good cog in the machine. If that doesn’t threaten your livelihood, I don’t know what does.

Standard Oil, Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes (Bust the Trusts! The Right Way for Once!)

What is it with me and bashing evil corporations of late (not necessarily on this blog, though I’m sure if you look through the archives…)? I hope it’s not habit-forming.

Well, could be that some of them, at least at some point in their history, became what they are with special thanks to the government. Could also be that some of them have been grandfathered in and are protected from competition from those who haven’t been grandfathered in. Might also have a little something to do with the fact that some of them have benefitted from foreign policy meddling and institutionalized theft committed by the state. But other than that, I have few complaints. Here’s a comment I left (since edited) at the end of a survey that sparked this article:

“I like surveys that have political and societal relevance. I believe in the desirability and functionality of free markets. And Exxon Mobil is a great company all things considered. However, they could not have gotten to where they are today without a little outside help. Some of this came from the consumer, to be sure. But some of it came from the state through the virtual cartel status granted to all major [US, Dutch, and British, at least] oil companies going back at least to the 1953 [CIA instigated] Iranian Coup… [This] greatly benefitted the Seven Sisters oil companies (a number of which [were Standard Oil descendants that later] merged to become Exxon Mobil) and is one of the main causes of unease in the Middle East and around the world today. They, like all oil companies, great and small, foreign and domestic, have also benefitted from oil’s status as de facto commodity backing for the US dollar. The world reserve currency known as the Federal Reserve Note is denominated in crude oil. The oil companies have a vested interest in maintaining this corrupt arrangement.”

Federal Reserve Octopus

What say you? Are some/most/all big corporations what they are today more thanks to competition or more thanks to monopoly? Here’s one for extra points: what about “small business,”? Aren’t they also protected from competition, in certain industries more than others, by regulations that keep newcomers out and by subsidies that keep competing technologies down?

For the record, anti-trust legislation actually has the effect of restraining competition, thereby securing monopoly, so when I say “bust the trusts” I don’t advocate anti-trust legislation, I simply want to let free market competition give some of these bigger guys a run for “their” money! The burden of proof is on them to show that they would really be as big as they are today were they under a system of laissez-faire capitalism. I guess you could say I’m with the left-libertarians on this one (except for the fact that I dared to use the word “capitalism”).

Standard Oil Octopus

Also, Brandon and I had our little chat on conspiracy theories. The collusion of big businesses (usually involving the state at some level) to form cartels (take note that Standard Oil, known to us today as Exxon Mobil and Chevron, was owned by John D. Rockefeller, who also had a hand in creating the Federal Reserve; I wouldn’t say everything that has happened in regards to these two was meticulously plotted, but I wouldn’t call it mere coincidence, either) happens to be one of the ones that I subscribe to. I think Adam Smith can back me up on this one. And unlike some who use the quote to support anti-trust legislation, I’ll give you more than just the first two sentences in order to show why such laws are not the best conclusion:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Monopoly Octopus

Ron Paul, Change Agent

From what I can tell, a “change agent” in the lingo of the conspiracy theorist is a person who seems alright on the surface but in reality is bought and paid for by the New World Order/Illuminati/Bilderbergs and whose primary function it to co-opt the opposition and channel their frustration into fruitless endeavors, so that the powers that be may effect the change they desire with virtually no threats to their plan. If someone like Ron Paul can be accused of this, of course, then no one is safe. Which is why using the term “change agent” in this way has little effect. But as an actual agent of change, Ron Paul’s record speaks for itself, I think. No, I don’t mean his legislative record, for this is rarely something anyone should be proud of, and at best serves only to condemn the person in question for the misdeeds they have committed in the name of making law and doing the will of the people. I refer to his other record. His list of achievements in public life outside of the halls of Congress.

The man has single-handedly convinced thousands upon thousands of people to adopt a more freedom-oriented outlook on life, if not also to utterly transform their worldview. And he continues to do so with his latest book, which I received in the mail today not more than a few hours ago. I’m already reading it and in the first chapter he is keen to stress the ideas that liberty and personal responsibility go hand in hand (one might term this a “Virtuous Voluntaryism“) and that an education’s structure and content must be consistent with one another in order to be effective.

I hope that thousands if not millions of people read this book (and/or others like it) and come away from it with a fresh or reinforced opinion on what needs to be done with our education system (hint, the bulk of the fight takes place outside of “the system”), which is in a complete shambles. Because that’s just how many people it is going to take to reform fix restructure completely uproot the current establishment. Doing this is an end in itself, of course. But it is also a means to a far greater goal. Children raised by the state cannot help, on the whole, but to be children raised for the state. Ron Paul forcefully drives home the point that the status quo cannot be successfully challenged without first addressing the wholesale brainwashing of what many deem to be society’s greatest asset: the children. Stop the elites and bureaucrats on this front and victory over them in perhaps every other field of battle is all but assured.

So I encourage you to read this book, to suggest to others that they read it, and once done, to share (your/their) copy with still others (could be wrong, but I think it’s WAY easier to do this with a hard copy than with a Kindle or iPad). That is what I intend to do with mine. I hope and expect to be finished with it within the week.

There’s Something to be Said for Consistency, but…

It’s not the hypocrisy of (anti/pro) war (Republican/Democratic) party hacks that I mind. For at least that means they are on the right side 50% of the time, which is better than being on the wrong side 100% of the time. No, what I hate is when this hypocrisy goes unnoticed, unexposed, and unchallenged. During Obama’s first term, the hypocrisy was that of the suddenly pro-war Democrats. And for his second term, it is that of the suddenly anti-war Republicans. How hard is it to simply have a standard? One that does not depend on the context of what letter happens to be next to the name of the puppet pretending to wield power for a period of 4 to 8 years. I am personally grateful for the amount of people on both sides of the aisle who don’t think it necessary or just to waltz (whether to bombard or to occupy) into Syria on a moment’s notice. But watch most of these anti-anything-Obama-does Republicans turn on a dime when it’s Iran’s turn to face our wrath. Then watch the Democrats squirm as they try to figure out their own position.

What are your thoughts? Would it be better if people just stuck to their position, even if it was awful, or if they waffled and on occasion did something right? Both in general and as it relates to the two parties and military intervention.

To be Perfectly Frank, on Today of All Days

You listening, NSA?

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If you are like most and fit into one or both of two categories — Patriotic Americans & Americans who have eyes and ears — you don’t need to be reminded of this by me. You either already started thinking about it on your own a week or more ago or in the last few days have been unable to avoid the subject, as reminders have sprung up everywhere, for example:

  • Your neighbor recently hoisted his colors. To only half-mast.
  • Google is doing that weird thing again with the black ribbon at the bottom of their homepage. Wait, it didn’t even merit a graphical transformation of their logo? Pffft! Those haters.
  • While surfing the cable, you can’t land on Fox News or MSNBC for more than five seconds without some vain idiot bursting a blood vessel — hold up, that’s any old time you surf the cable, so you might have to stop for more like ten seconds before someone says, “when I saw the twin towers collapse…”
  • That one obnoxious friend who likes to waste your time on the phone just casually brought it up the other day. Just like he did last year. And the year before. You talked for over an hour.
  • Your calendar says “September” and one of the little boxes says “11.”

Well, it just so happens that I think all of this is completely absurd. I mean, who cares?! Let me state that another way: This all happened 12 years ago, to people I don’t know, in a place that, practically speaking, is on the other side of the world and I don’t really care any more than I would about any other event that can be similarly described. And I think that were it not for generations of being spoon-fed American Exceptionalism and related propaganda, no one else in their right mind would care either, except, of course, those still dealing with their injuries or their losses.

What happened in New York City (and Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, PA) to 3000 random people more than a decade ago should have little more impact on my way of thinking or doing than what might have happened, say, in Western Siberia to 10 random people more than 3 millennia ago. The only important difference between these two events, in terms of how they relate to me, is that the former has been taken up as a cause for the erosion of my liberties and the destruction what’s left of my country. But I’m sure that if 9/11 didn’t happen there still would have been plenty of other means to that end, so like I said, the event itself is of no particular importance.

Please do not misunderstand and take any of this to mean that I don’t care and that no one else should care that innocent people were murdered on September 11th, 2001. It’s just that I realize that violent, cruel, wanton, unjustified murder is an every day occurrence and there was hardly anything special about it in this case. Besides perhaps the circumstances leading up to it (religious extremism, blowback, the incompetence of the intelligence community, strange coincidences, etc.) or the disgusting way in which the crisis was taken advantage of. Quoting Josef Stalin* never made me any friends, but here goes: “when one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it’s statistics”. It is easy to read too much into those words, especially given who allegedly said them, but there is much truth to them, I think.

Is it a given that you are or that you should be more sad when two (or 10 or 10,000) people die than you are when it is only one? And by how much, exactly? Maybe if you personally know and love those who died it makes sense to be more devastated when they die in droves, but that has more to do with the positive impact those people had on your life when they were living and the way your life is going to be without them. It has little to do with numbers. Is a serial killer with 12 victims somehow more evil than a serial killer with 11 victims? More skilled, more insane perhaps, but more evil? How much harder is it to answer such questions in the affirmative when it involves complete strangers, perhaps thousands of miles away?

It certainly makes sense for society to collectively hate greater amounts of death and destruction more than it does lesser amounts. However, this is not because greater amounts are somehow objectively more evil, but simply because society is made up of individuals who are each more likely to be harmed in these greater tragedies than they are in the lesser ones. The state and the media know this well enough and so are able to play to the fears and emotions of the people all the more easily. Throw into this volatile mix some patriotic fervor and an opportunistic president (the very last person on earth I would ever give a bullhorn to), and you can begin to understand why this awful tragedy, this mere statistic, became cause for war and the many evils that accompanied it. And continue, even to this day.

Some people maintain that we should be particularly mindful of the 9/11 attacks because they were an act of war by Islamic Terrorists against the United States. This is debatable (no, laughable), but even if it wasn’t it has no bearing on whether I should have a quarrel or an alliance with one side or the other. These two imaginary entities are mere labels for establishing collective guilt and responsibility. Everyone is expected to pick a side or have it chosen for them, even though it does not follow that an attack on “the United States” is necessarily an attack on them, or that they have some duty to aid, to sympathize or empathize with the victim (which, again, is only a figment).

If anything, 9/11 was an attack on a very specific set of targets. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Capitol Building. These may have represented “America” to the planners and perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, but none of them have anything to do with the vast majority of self-styled Americans. I’d even go so far as to say that the latter two targets had it coming. And they’re just going to keep on making the same mistakes and expect a different outcome. There went Iraq. There go Afghanistan and Libya. Here comes Syria. Next up Iran. What other hornets’ nests can we lob some rocks at and not expect to get stung? Do not those who live by the sword also tend to die by the sword?

*Likely misattributed, as are most of the good ones, it seems.

First World Camping Problems, USDA Tyranny, a Fish Story, and Some Epic Snapshots

[A slightly updated version of a post that first appeared on The Libertarian Liquidationist]

I went on a 50 mile hike in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (Montana) the week before last. The trail is called “the Beaten Path”. That doesn’t really mean much. It wasn’t rock climbing or cliff scaling, but it wasn’t far removed at times. Or at least it seemed that way with our heavy backpacks and the average of ten miles we covered each day. Two good friends (from Cheyenne, Wyoming) and I camped below the mountains on Saturday night (August 3rd). A $9 fee and the roads on the way there were still super-crappy. What gives? Wasn’t that supposed to be one of the things governments were good at?

Add to that my $26 fishing license (right in the middle of the year-long season, and just past the height of that season) and we’ve already been taken for 35 Federal Reserve Notes. I understand the need for wise management, but does licensing really solve it (to say nothing of the natural right to catch fish)? I’m not so sure. Charging everybody the same fees for what end up being different costs imposed by them can’t be anything but inefficient. In my case, it incentivizes me to go out and fish more than I otherwise would, imposing more costs, just to make it worth getting the license. Considering that I never catch anything, I have a lot of fishing to squeeze between now and the season’s end.

Just how bad is my fishing? I brought a nice little pole that comes with a cast reel and a fly reel. I stimulated the local economy by purchasing several fancy new lures (having temporarily misplaced my other good ones). What could go wrong? Well, within the first five casts my lure got snagged on a rock at about 6 feet depth. I had to wade out to three feet of depth and alternately jerk and loosen my line from several positions to get it unstuck. Nothing I hadn’t had to do before.

I should have quit while I was ahead. Maybe another five casts later I outdid myself. If it weren’t for the fact that my reel had become loosened from the rod I know it would have been my farthest cast yet. Instead, the entire reel went flying out into the lake and the rest of the line hung up on the rod. Not wanting to lose my reel, I panicked and dove in after it. I figured, “8 feet? This will be a cinch!” After going head first to the bottom (the sun was behind the clouds and I was stirring up the mud, so I couldn’t see it) four or five times I decided it would be best to pull on the line until it was completely unraveled and hope that it was tied to the reel. Luckily it was. I was happy to recover all my gear, but I was soaking wet and the sun wasn’t out. Luckily no one witnessed my floundering. No doubt my friends would have gotten a kick out of it.

On my way back to camp, dripping, shivering, holding my tangled line and my dismembered pole I was stopped by some ranger chick (the US Forest Service is an agency of the US Department of Agriculture). Just what I needed. She detained me for about five minutes to ask me where I was from, where I was going, how far away our campfire was from the lake, whether we knew not to burn our soup cans, etc. She was at least nice about it (heck, she didn’t even mention the Glock 40 belonging to my friends’ brother, strapped to my belt, or ask to see my fishing license) and eventually realized how uncomfortable I was and said she would come to our campsite later to finish her lecture. Which, of course, she did. She had no problem telling us that we were her worst demographic, three young men. Can you imagine a police officer saying that to a black teenager in a large urban area? I’d say that’s profiling, but I digress. She told us she was going to be off for the next two days but when she came back she would be checking up on us. Add to the profiling some harassment. We had yet to be told or to admit that we had broken any “rules” (which, of course, we had). Luckily we managed to evade her the rest of the hike, but we made sure not to have any extra fun lest we incur her wrath.

So I was basically done fishing on the first day unless I wanted to fly-fish or untangle my other line. I did try a little fly-fishing at one lake a few days later but didn’t catch anything. Luckily, four or five gentleman from Chicago (with thick former-Soviet bloc accents) whom we camped near saw I had no luck and offered us some of their surplus. Five fresh trout. Of course, we had to gut them ourselves, but it was worth it. I wrapped them in aluminum foil and seasoned with lemon juice, garlic, dill, black pepper, red pepper, and salt. Then I put them on our grill over our camp fire for 20 minutes. If I swallowed any bones, I didn’t notice. As a courtesy, in the morning we gave them a package of noodles we would have otherwise eaten the night before. Does that qualify more as reciprocal gifting or as barter? I hope for their sake those boys had their Montana fishing licenses (better yet, that they didn’t have them but managed to dodge the rangers), though as out-of-staters it would have cost them an arm and a leg.

We camped again the night we got back down. Another $9. 46 FRNs total. Roads were still pretty bad. No hand sanitizer or lights in the bathroom facilities. Almost no good firewood other than some dead, dried pine boughs and a giant old stump which we put set aflame around 7:30 PM. It took two of us to drag it to the fire and all three of us to lift it into the fire. A lot of the weight came from the few large stones that the root system had wrapped itself around. It was 3:30 AM before I decided to douse the fire. The stump was still there. It was a lot smaller, and in two pieces, but still could have burned another hour or two on its own. My one friend had turned in around 11, the other one was up with me until about 2. I knew if I went to bed as early as they I would be awake, tossing and turning after only a couple hours’ rest. Plus, being a night owl, I couldn’t help it.

I’m not sure what our backpacks weighed, but even a week after we got back (on August 9th), my shoulders were still a little stiff, and even now, two weeks later, my right knee aches when I straighten my leg out. Even with all this, I had a great time.