Minimize This

From “Minimize This” by Alex Limkin:

“As a result of my military service, I qualify for life support from society in the form of entitlements from the Veterans Administration. Because of this, I am able to work jobs that pay close to the minimum wage and still afford a mortgage and have a decent living. In the summer, I operate a chainsaw three days a week as part of a forest restoration project, which pays $14 per hour, and in the winter I do ski patrol work three days a week, which pays $8.50 per hour. And one day a week I work at a farm in Dixon shoveling manure and mending fence in exchange for a casserole that gets me through most of the week, and gives me an excuse to go into town and have a lemonade and maybe stop by the library.

I am grateful to society for giving me the opportunity to work these low-paying jobs that I could not otherwise afford to do. Since it is important to me, and many veterans like me, to work outdoors, which generally is not the most remunerative work, the entitlement program of the Veterans Administration has been an invaluable asset. Also, they take care of my healthcare needs, so I don’t have to worry about getting sick or hurt. Just the other day I went in after not being able to hear for two weeks, due to my ears being compacted with wax on account of my foam ear plugs (officially diagnosis: bilateral impacted cerumen with hearing interruption), and Dr. Simpson squeezed me in between patients and vacuumed out my ears and got me hearing again. On top of that I was compensated for my mileage for making the 120-mile drive to the nearest VA Hospital.

Anyhow, being in the forest and being in the mountains is beneficial to me, and the entitlements I receive from the VA gives me the chance to continue contributing to the social contract in a manner respectful of my limitations. That is true freedom. I wrote “Minimize This” as a love letter to society. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. I think if everyone received entitlements, allowing people to have a decent living and pursue work and interests more suited to their natures, we would live in a much healthier, happier, and saner world than the one currently manifested.” — from Intro to “Minimize This”

I am not much for politics. Or rather, I should say, for most of my adult life I have not been one for politics. The main reason for this is that for much of my life I have been a government servant, a soldier, and in my mind politics did not matter. Or rather, I should say, the thought of influencing politics was so foreign to me, that I gave it little to no thought. So the writing of this book, “Minimum This,” was a truly unlikely event. The important thing for me was just to start the discussion. What if? What if? We must always be brave enough to ask this question, because we must always be brave enough to imagine a better world, a healthier world, a saner world, for all. And then ask for it.               – Alex Escué Limkin

Advance praise for “Minimize This”:
“Minimize This” is a forcibly argued examination of what a truly just and generous society could look like. – PKC

Is the idea of a minimum income truly that revolutionary? As it stands, we have millions of people trapped in a cycle of welfare and poverty. With welfare comes a built-in incentive to not work. If one works, one loses one’s welfare benefits. The controlling logic, then, is to reduce welfare benefits to the lowest amount possible, so that if one wants to enjoy any standard of living at all, one must find a job and go off welfare. Is this system working? Doesn’t seem to be. So: What if we just increased welfare benefits to a livable income, and put everyone on welfare? Those that wish to earn more money may obviously pursue that, and those that have interests that may not be remunerative may also pursue those as well. But you would no longer be trapped in a dead end job that doesn’t suit you. That in itself seems worth a million bucks. My .02 cents. – HST

A great nation is capable of great invention. “Minimize This” filled me with hope and promise. I believe the premise is sound, even though, as you say, the Devil is in the details. – PF

I read “Minimize This” with some degree of skepticism. By the end, I was in tears. No matter the economic viability of a minimum income, there is no doubt that this is a courageous proposal that should be considered by all thinking people. – MHK

“Minimize This” is the cri de coeur of the peons who labor for crumbs in a country of immense wealth and resources, where the wealthiest 200 families control the equivalent assets of 150 million Americans combined, where corporate dark money influences government on an unprecedented scale. It is a landmark work in the evolution of a fair, just and decent society. – BM

I went to school with Alex Limkin. We were best friends at Deerfield Academy. As someone belonging to the 3%, it is difficult for me to accept the idea that so many of us should get something for nothing. While I can not endorse the idea of a minimum income in this country, seeing as that a program like this would undoubtedly be borne on the backs of the ruling class, I think there may be other smaller countries, with much reduced populations, that could experiment with this at some point. – BN

I lived in a tent in Iraq with Captain Limkin for a number of months. We didn’t always know what we were doing, but we did the best we could. At one point he got sick and didn’t get out of his flak vest for a week. He just lay there on his cot. But he recovered. It doesn’t surprise me that he wrote this book. He always struck me as the sensitive type, caring about the welfare of others and what not. He fought for our terps [interpreters] to travel with us behind Coalition lines to take their meals. It may not have seemed like a big deal, but it meant a lot to them not having to eat rancid chicken and rice . – COL WF (Ret.)

Captain Limkin is my brother. He is a good man. I am thinking when will I see Captain Limkin. You know, I am working now in Florida. Any day now I can just catch the plane and go visit him where he is not living. Yes, to see his wife and son. To see the forest that he is always talking of. To see the mountains. Yes to one day hold him again in my eyes. I am not yet reading this book. But it must be a great book. Captain Limkin!!! It is Tatoooooooo!!! — NS

Alex was a high school English student of mine. I once remarked that of all my students, he was the one most likely to become a writer. I think his experiences, including his years at Deerfield, made him uniquely qualified to write this book. I think he is a credit to the Academy, despite being expelled in his junior year for scholastic underperformance. I think it is likely that Deerfield will present him, at some point, with the diploma that he has requested several times over the years. Maybe after “Minimum This” is awarded the National Book Award, or he receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom. By the way, Minimize This is a great book. I expected no less from him. – CM

I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. When Alex presented me with this book, and described that it had to do with the government putting everyone on welfare, all I could think was: Good luck with that. Look around us. You think welfare is doing one damn bit of good? Look at what it did to the Alaskan Tribes. All of it goes straight to the liquor store. If people aren’t making it on one job, because they say the pay is too low, get a second job, get a third job. You want to know what I did to get ahead? I went to Alaska and worked in the refineries. And when the oil ran dry I worked in the fisheries. And when the fisheries ran dry, I worked in the villages teaching the natives to read and write. You think that’s easy work? We busted our asses up there. And I had a wife and kids in tow. Don’t tell me there’s not opportunity out there. If I was young again, and had to do it all over, I would go straight to North Dakota. There’s thousands of fracking wells to work on, all high paying jobs. You can drive a truck there and make in one year what you’d make elsewhere in ten. No, sir. I don’t agree with a minimum income. I’m not saying people are lazy and no good, but in my experience, if you give people something for nothing, they’ll just want more, and do even less. It’s human nature. – BB

That my brother wrote this book does not surprise me. He was always the romantic in the family. I never pegged him as an idealist, but I have to admit that only an idealist could have written this book. In any event, neither I nor my husband, at this time, can agree with the idea of a minimum wage. I can’t help but think that many jobs that are currently out there, jobs in the service industry for example, airline jobs, taxi jobs, hotel jobs, would not be filled if people had an independent stream of wealth. In other words, if people were relieved of the need to find work to support themselves, who would perform these jobs? In every society, there are jobs that must be done in order for that society to sustain itself. For the wheels to continue turning, so to speak. Some of these jobs are downright unpleasant. Who, for example, would voluntarily work, say, in the waste management industry, if they had an income independent of that job? If the trash piles up in the street, who would be responsible for that? As much as I love my brother, I feel that he is not fully thinking through all the ramifications that would accrue to a society that implemented a minimum income. But I did read the comment by Hunter Thompson, which I agree with. No one should be stuck in a low-paying soul-sucking dead-end job that they can’t stand in order to survive. – AL