Author Max Borders joins Brittany and Connor to discuss the important role communities play in promoting individual liberty and limited government.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So today we have a friend of mine on Max Borders, who’s an author of two great books, and we had him on, cause we wanna have him talk about one of the things he talks about in his book, which is back in the day, you know, earlier America, communities used to take care of each other. Sometimes we call this mutual aid, which is like helping each other out, and we don’t really do that a lot anymore. And now we see The government doing a lot of that. So we wanted to talk to him about that today and maybe what we can be doing now to help restore that. So welcome to the show, max.
Max borders: Thank you very much.
Brittany: We are happy to have you. So for starters, you told this great story in one of the chapters of the book, and I’m gonna ruin her name and it’s gonna be terrible. Oseola McCarty probably saying.
Max borders: Yeah, Oseola McCarty. Yes.
Brittany: Yes. If you could tell us a little bit about that. I love her story as an example of communities giving back.
Max borders: Exactly. Well, you might even think of it as just giving because this woman absolutely worked and sweat her entire life. And this was really what was so profound about it. This woman got up at the cock crow, as they would say, and she would go to bed working at night, and she absolutely, she took in ironing, took in laundry from people who were wealthier in the community. And she worked hard and she worked so hard that she was able to save up a lot of money by the in, by the time she was ready to retire. And I think she was quite old by this point. the past the 65 retirement age, she had amassed, a couple hundred thousand dollars. And a lot of, you know, a lot of people, I hope think that’s a lot of money to save up in life. But if you think of saving that money over a lifetime, just doing something as hard work and as simple as ironing, you can see that this was no small feat, just saving that money. But what she did was she took, she’d saved more than that. She’d saved enough to take care of herself. in her elder years, she took $200,000 and gifted it to the local university and specifically to help nursing. The nursing school at the university have scholarships for young women who didn’t have enough money to go to college. So she was actually helping young women become nurses with all of her life savings just about. And so many people were so impressed by this, including Ted Turner who is a famous billionaire that started CNN. Oh, that’s great. That he decided to give, to match her money and more with another gift to the very same program. So she inspired a lot of people, had articles written about her, and it’s really a great story of not only the ethic of saving your money and really putting that to good use, instead of just spending it on anything. But she could have in her old age, spent it on, you know, just about anything on a brand new car, a new house. Instead, she decided to give it to her local universities to help other girls like her because she wanted to be a nurse and she thought other young women might want to be too.
Connor: Max. It’s interesting to hear stories like this because as I’ve learned from history, charity was such a common part of people’s lives. And, what was very interesting to me is we often think of charity or this mutual aid idea as rich people, giving to poor people, the haves, giving to the have-nots. And what was fascinating for me to learn was, like in the first century of America, you had what were called mutual aid societies. And they typically were not at all funded by wealthy people. It was more like insurance in a way where, they were largely immigrants and they were often poor, but they were united by their, maybe their ethnicity, which means, you know, which country they came from type of thing, right? So you’d have, a group of, Germans who would form their own little kind of society, or you’d have, Italians and they would form their own society. And then as these people would make their way to America, often with no money at all, and they were super poor and they were in need, they would find a group of people here somewhat like them who would be willing to help them and provide for them and watch their kids and give them, you know, life insurance and, bring them into the community. And these societies were such an important part, of people’s lives. And, again, it was other poor people. it was other people in similar conditions all chipping in all being willing to help. And it was very religious, you know, for most of them, that they felt that it was kind of their religious or spiritual duty to help their fellow man. Now, max, as I, you know, think of today, you know, most of those societies are completely gone. And the government, kind of the nickname is crowded out. The government crowded them out because, you had these welfare programs and you had taxes and the government said, oh, we’ll take care of you now. And so these groups didn’t really have any way to compete against the government, which had the power to tax people. Why do you suppose that is? Like, as you look at the history of these mutual aid societies and kinda the earlier days of this country and perhaps other countries where you had this, this practice and this common tradition, you look at how things are today, what are your thoughts on kinda the differences between the two?
Max borders: Well, that’s such a great question and I wanna mention that at, their peak, the Mutual Aid Society, if you wanna call it a movement, it really, it was ever-present in American life and you didn’t just have poor people chipping to the local pot, I guess you could say. But also you had wealthy people, you had middle-class people, and a lot of times they would, they were people across different economic levels mixing together in comradery in what they called fraternity, which means brotherhood, and or sorority, which means sisterhood. And today when we hear the word sorority or fraternity, we think of colleges. And that’s all that’s left the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood is what happens when you go to college. But that’s really not what it was for these folks at all. It was one in three Americans at the peak of these movements belonged to a mutual aid society, which is just how profound and ever-present it was. And you know, what’s different about that from today, we have this idea that to be compassionate for other human beings, you have to vote for a certain party or have a government-sponsored social safety net that’s forcibly paid for by tax dollars. But you think about a time when one in three Americans were involved in these societies, they really wove their own social safety net by and for each other. And what’s so special about that? is that when you know the people around you benefiting from these programs, you’re able to make really good judgments about who is deserving and who’s not deserving of assistance. Sometimes people are bad and they take advantage of systems and it doesn’t work to their benefit to keep giving them money if they use all their money on bad stuff like drugs or alcohol or, otherwise spend their money on things that they don’t need. But in a mutual aid society, you knew everyone there. They were your neighbors, they were part of your community. And so when, you would go up, to someone who was in need, you would be able to say, Hey, we realized that you need this, but we might wanna place some conditions on it. And that kind of comradery and community that people had meant that they had what we call in the economics business, local knowledge, but it’s not just no local knowledge about the conditions of goods and services, it’s local knowledge about the people around you. And that’s such a powerful thing.
Brittany: I really like that. yeah, cuz that, cuz like you said then, then you know exactly what the people around you need.
Max borders: That’s right.
Brittany: There was a story in your new book that I really liked cuz I think there’s a lot of misconception that if people were left to their own devices, meaning if they didn’t have the government telling them what to do, they wouldn’t give money. Right. Even not even wealthier people, but people who weren’t in, in very poor, impoverished, impoverished situations. But I believe it was, was it your grandfather who was the dentist?
Max borders: That’s right.
Brittany: Yeah. If you could tell a little bit of that story. Cause I was really touched by that story about somebody who did give back and nobody was making him give back.
Max borders: That’s right. I mean, my grandfather was the dentist in upper Cleveland County, North Carolina and upper Cleveland County at the time he became a dentist, was a very poor rural county. Almost everyone there, during the time he worked, which was pretty much from the sixties through the nineties, so a very long career there was either, in the textile industry, which is making fabrics and yarn and things like that. Or they worked on farms, which is growing an agricultural sector. If you think about people who were working in these industries at the time, they’re not loaded, they’re not rich or wealthy or whatever. So a lot of them didn’t have very much to give. They lived, as we say, from one paycheck to the next. So what my grandfather did is he devoted one day of the week every summer and sometimes beyond that for what he, what we would call today, charity care. And in so doing, he invited people to come, they showed up, they got their dental care from my grandfather, and they never had to pay a dime. Sometimes he would say, pay if you can, or pay me someday. and it was an act of love for his community. Here’s the interesting thing though, for years, years and, years and years, things would just show up on the doorstep. Hmm. Sometimes it would be a letter in the mail with a $20 bill that said, this is all I can do, but thank you for letting, thank you for working on my teeth. and it, it would be an, it would be just a $20 bill and the note would be unsigned. Sometimes people were a little embarrassed to that they couldn’t pay in full. Other times it would be a whole basket of fruits and vegetables that someone had grown. Sometimes it would be a covered dish. You never, he never knew. But he always got all this amazing stuff because the people did what they could to show their appreciation to him for that charity. So, you know, we don’t live like that anymore. Our systems and structures are so entrenched now that we have forgotten how to be loving giving members of our community sometimes. And I don’t mean we as in you literally, I’m sure some of your listeners out there are very giving and very charitable, but for the people in that time, it was a habit of mind. It was something that you did every single day or at least once a week. Like my grandfather.
Connor: Max. it’s a powerful story that I fear that oftentimes we don’t hear as many of those stories, in our day. You share it in your book. And for the parents out there, we’ll link to Max’s book on the show notes page. So Tuttletwins.com/podcast where you can grab a quick and convenient link to pick it up. And it’s very much worth, picking up this book. I have it in my hands right now after Collapse of The End of America and the rebirth of her ideals. And in this section where you’re talking about the importance of community, which is what we’ve been talking about today, you share a quote that I love to share from Alexis de Tocqueville. This was a Frenchman who basically came to America to observe this new country that was only a few decades old and to kind of write a journal if you will make a catalog a review of what he saw. And I won’t share the whole quote cuz we don’t have time for it. But he says in part that, he says, the political associations that exist in the United States are only a single feature in the midst of the immense assemblage or collection of associations in that country. Americans of all ages, he says, all conditions and all dispositions or, you know, all circumstances constantly form associations. He was impressed. He goes on to talk about how he was impressed by if there’s ever a problem that people are facing, then they voluntarily get together. They create some kind of society or club or organization to help find and, provide solutions for that problem. So we don’t have a lot of time left. I wanna make sure we touch on this point, max. What is the connection between community or these associations that Alexis de Tocqueville observed in early America? What are the, what is the connection between those types of, associations and individual liberty? How is it that community impacts liberty?
Max borders: Well, I love that you’re ending on this question because it’s really so important to me. the people who criticize, human liberty, which just means that we’re free to do whatever we want as long as we don’t hurt. Other people can do anything they want with that freedom. And the thing that Alexis de Tocqueville observed when he came from France was that Americans did just that with their freedom. They found in each other common goals, common traditions, and common needs. And that third one is the most important. When you find a community that is, has commonality at its root, you’ll find their common needs. And it’s in that common need that people can devote very and will because we as human beings love our freedom, but we’re also social creatures. We’re benevolent creatures. Benevolent just means that we can, we are capable of such good for each other and this massive industry that sprang up in a very poor time in American history. If you can imagine what it would be like today with the vast riches that we enjoy in America today, what our mutual aid societies would look like if the government didn’t, as you put it, Connor, crowd out the philanthropy sector and the mutual aid society sector, it would just be an explosion of experiments and how to help each other better. And that’s really the upshot of, that part of the book, in which I detail what is possible with mutual aid going forward in society.
Brittany: I think this is so important because as Connor and I talk about a lot, you know, to prove that we don’t need the government or that we need less government, we have to show that we can do all these things on our own. And so I think this is such an important topic. So thank you so much Max for coming on and talking about it with us and parents. We will link to both books. Actually, we’ve got two books that are great so you can check them out. But thank you again so much for coming on.
Max borders: Oh, it was my pleasure. I am such a fan of the Tuttle Twins books and everything you guys are doing.
Connor: Thanks, Max. Well, max is a good friend of freedom and, parents, he should definitely check out his books. He’s doing some cool stuff. So Tuttletwins.com/podcast to check that out. And for the family, you know, the talking with the kids about this idea, this is such an important conversation. The importance of personal responsibility, the importance of helping one another, so that we can do these things ourselves. That we can solve the problems of society rather than relying on the government to do it for us and do it worse and with inefficiency and waste and corruption. And so it’s important that we all play our part and get back to, that early model of mutual aid and helping one another so that we can shrink the government’s power. so guys, check out Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Go to the show notes page, make sure to share the podcast, with your friends. Let’s get more people listening. We appreciate you for listening and for subscribing. And Brittany, until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.