Through her Little House series of books, author Laura Ingalls Wilder became one of the leading exponents of self-reliance. The original eight volumes depict life growing up on a frontier family homestead during the 1870s and 1880s. I first read these books as an adult, fascinated by Ingalls Wilder’s description of how her father built a log cabin in Little House on the Prairie.
Technology is, at its most basic level, simply the application of knowledge. Ingalls Wilder’s books are filled with great examples of how resourceful pioneers lived off the land, worked out a system of division of labor with their neighbors, and overcame adversity. A log cabin is hardly what anyone would consider advanced technology, but it demonstrates how a little knowledge plus simple materials provided by nature can be used to great effect. Though it seems Ingalls Wilder’s father moved the family whenever he felt their current location was getting too crowded, at one point he worked for a railroad, and the family benefitted from transportation technology both as a source of supplies and for access to distant markets. Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose Wilder Lane would later take advantage of another technology, the printing press.
Today’s technology should be a much greater enabler of individualism—and to some extent it is. Think of the Internet as virtual printing press and virtual railroad rolled into one. However, the ability to make a living on your own is endangered by tax increases, copyleft, inflation, open source, net neutrality, and crony capitalism. And the reason is simple: many of our leaders have discovered that it is easier for them to amass unearned power and wealth under collectivism.