Friday, December 4, 2009

The Illegality of Making Ends Meet

My kids and I watched the movie Kit Kittredge a few weeks ago. It is set in the Great Depression. The main character, Kit, comes from a wealthy family who suddenly has to make ends meet. It was a great movie for discussing many topics with the kids.

One thing that really struck me is how many of the ways they made ends meet would be illegal today.
1. Taking in boarders- unless you live somewhere zoned multi-residential this is usually illegal.
2. Keeping chickens in your back yard- In the suburb where we live, this is actually not illegal as long as you have less than 4 and less than 4 pets total and your neighbors don't complain of the noise. In many places though this would be illegal.
3. Selling eggs from your chickens to your neighbors- I am sure that you would need to be inspected by some official to be able to sell eggs.

The only thing that we could do without breaking a law or two would be sewing clothes and selling them. But you should probably fill out a DBA and get a sales tax number because you know the state would want its 8.25%.

It is striking how much less freedom people have here in the early 2000's to make ends meet.

Another comparison I can make is between here and now and Mexico in the 1990's (when I lived there). A great many Mexicans that I knew had transformed their garage or part of their house into a business of some kind. The lady on the corner had a mini grocery store. So did the man down the street. My host mother had two little apartments in her back yard that she rented out. These people did not keep records or give receipts. I am almost sure that they didn't report stuff to the government. And yet no one seemed to care.

Also, people often gave themselves made-up jobs. For example, there was an old man at the grocery store that had a "uniform" and a whistle. He was a self-proclaimed security guard. He lived off of tips from the shoppers. This would certainly be illegal here. Some people might be put off by these made up jobs, but I think it is healthier for people to do what they can instead of waiting for the government to give them a handout.

I am not saying that I would rather live in Mexico than here, but I am saying that they had more freedom to make ends meet than we do now.