Nome’s Remote-Operated Submersible Gold Mining Dredges

Tramrod was Nome's first remote-operated submersible gold mining dredge.

Tramrod was Nome’s first remote-operated submersible gold mining dredge.

The Tramrod was Nome’s first remote-operated submersible gold mining dredge, operated by the WestGold mining company in 1989 and known locally as the “Underwater Miner”. There have also been several other attempts at diverless or remote-operated submersible gold mining dredges offshore Nome in the decades since. Here I attempt to document the various attempts and their results:

Tramrod; 1989, 1990; WestGold; Very little production, did not pay for fuel. Program cancelled, crawler refurbished and used in another part of the world more suited to it.

JAG Crawler (aka Pac Man); about 2003; Little to no production, did not pay for fuel. Placed in storage until 2012, see Rebel Crawler.

Casa de Paga Crawler; 2004 to present; Casa de Paga; Producing a profit for each of the past 11 years. Decent profit margins on good ground with high gold prices. Can still be out dredged by a diver on a 10″ in certain conditions. Gold mined has paid for fuel and upgrades, as well as modest income for operators. This is the crawler I operate.

Mad Max Crawler; about 2007; J5 Mining; Major design flaws. No mothership, support boat floats sold and reused on the Eroica. Promising trials, but severely mangled in storm, stored then parted out.

Gold Fish; about 2008 to 2011; John Mihelich; Successful remote arm, innovative design features. Poor coverage. Required ground that was both higher grade and shallow. Combination of resource depletion, DNR regulation changes, and lease owner policy changes caused this to be decommissioned and parted out.

A 1 atmosphere mining sub designed for offshore Nome. Never got enough gold to even pay for fuel. Has not moved since 2011.

A 1 atmosphere mining sub designed for offshore Nome. Never got enough gold to even pay for fuel. Has not moved since 2011.

G-Force Submarine; about 2009; One atmosphere submarine with rigid snorkel, designed to drive from the beach into the water and mine in depths up to 90′. Horrible design, but very well built. Never got enough gold to pay for fuel.

Persistence (aka Tiny Feet); about 2009, 2011, 2015; various owners, latest is Pacifica; serious design flaws in both crawler and mothership. Buyback crab boat. Has a few days of production each of the years it’s been tried, then a few years of refurbishment and repairs. Gold mined has not paid for docking fees let alone fuel.

Rebel Cralwer under development and testing offshore Nome, Alaska in 2012. Last seen for sale.

Rebel Cralwer under development and testing offshore Nome, Alaska in 2012. Last seen for sale.

Rebel Crawler; 2012; The pac-man crawler refurbished and rebuilt with a new mothership, a buyback crab boat named the Rebel. Failed to get enough gold to pay for fuel. Last seen offered for sale out of Dutch Harbor.

Kentucky Golden Rod; 2012; Palmerosa Mining; Serious design flaws, built by smart people with zero offshore Nome mining experience. Vessel refurbished as a 10″ diver dredge.

Alaska Golden Rod; 2012; Serious design flaws, expected free flowing sand. Vessel refurbished as a 6″ diver dredge.

“R.O.D.V.”; 2014;  Poor design, too small, no mothership. Has only gotten wet once, has not produced any gold yet. Built with support from a German TV show about Nome gold mining.

Golden Seahorse; 2015; Vern Atkinson and EddyPump; Poor design, too small, can easily be outperformed by a diver with a 4″ dredge. Designer thought gold was in free flowing sand. Used diver to watch crawler and 7 guys on surface to support the dredge. Was portrayed on the TV show Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice as having made half of it’s capital cost in one month of ice dredging. Claim is dubious (the TV show is thought to frequently give false gold counts) and portrayed profit disregards the high operating costs. This EddyPump dredge sat idle for most of the summer 2015 season, and was finally taken out for a few days in September 2015.

Surf-Crawler-on-shoreSeveral more have been attempted to be built over the years but never got wet. There have also been several “surf crawlers” which are basically like the Christine Rose, except on giant tracks. All surf crawlers sat idle for most of 2015 due to inherent design limitations and poor grade.

 

Book Review: The Martian, by Andy Weir (Spoilers at bottom)

Construction of my ice dredging hut. No other human for 7 miles.

Construction of my ice dredging hut. No other human for 7 miles.

An excellent book for anyone that likes science-based fiction and space travel. Includes spoilers, far down the page. The Martian was a fun read. It was very realistic and everything was based in science or backed up by science and math. Except, as the author acknowledges in interviews, for the initial Mars weather event at the start of the book; but even that could be plausible. I enjoyed the technical details and the decision making processes used by our hero and the people trying to help save him.

I’m glad that this book is currently being made into a movie. Ridley Scott as director is an exciting choice and Matt Damon should be good as the main character.

Go read the book, then give it to a teen.

Spoilers below.
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Spoilers:

A few things in the book, although realistic and believable, were not how I would imagine the situation to play out. I don’t know if a Mars astronaut would have allowed the “Rich Purnell Maneuver” scenario. He could have told them not to do it, with the type of drive they were using, it could have been aborted within weeks of it being initiated. The Purnell Maneuver causes significant risk to his five crew mates, and postpones or cancels the next Mars manned mission. I believe that if I were in his situation, I would have not cooperated with such a move. Instead, the resupply direct to Mars could have succeeded. And even if it didn’t, the hero could have conducted extensive science before he ran out of food and died. He could have made the trek to the Ares 4 MAV with his collected and labeled samples; used his water to add fuel capacity to the MAV. His samples, his spare parts, and his body would be waiting there once the next crew arrived. They would bury his body and use the extra fuel to carry his samples to orbit after their 31 sol mission. And if the food-direct resupply mission did work, yay, he gets to go home.

In the future, I suspect Mars (etc) mission planners will read this and other similar books to influence their designs. For example, in the book it took two months for NASA to realize he was alive because public disclosure laws required the publication of all images within 24 hours of receipt and they didn’t want to show his body. This is a good policy, but there should be an exemption for images of macabre, saying they are not to be released for 20 years. I’m not sure how this would have helped, except that the rest of the crew would have stayed in orbit for a few more hours. And maybe sent down their extra food somehow.

Also, how hard is it to throw in some seeds of edible plants and freeze dried soil bacteria. A few dozen grams. Just for fun. Every mission should bring a mini seed bank, if for no other reason than to leave then in a time capsule on the surface. And maybe add 200 grams for a SSD with a cultural archive. In compressed SD format, modern storage devices could hold more than just one decade of TV and movies.

And what is the deal with sending astronauts up with laptop computers that cannot survive a rapid decompression? There are options besides LCD screens.

As for the RTG, I would not have bothered to put it back. It’s pretty safe, and is a good backup to have around within walking distance for heat and minimal power. He could have left it in the one uninsulated rover.

I know it was fairly unforeseeable, but why didn’t he have some potatoes growing in the rovers? He needed all growing the capacity he could get. This would have enabled him to recover from the hab explosion. I would have kept them in the rover with the RTG.

For the Rovers, I wonder if there was a better strategy than stopping to to recharge for the 13 hours of sunlight. Lets explore:

Solar power, he has 50 panels for the hab, each with a bracket to hold it up at a 14-degree inclination. Each panel is 2 square meters, 10% efficient, that area gets a solar insolation of over 500w/m^2, which comes to 100w per panel.

Battery capacity per rover: 9000whr, he has two rovers

  • Range for 1 Rover with both batteries: 80km/sol (225whr/km), needs 14 panels @13hours to recharge
  • Range for 2 Rovers Loaded on rough terrain: 50km/sol (360whr/km), needs 14 panels @13hours to recharge
  • Range for 2 Rovers Unloaded on easy terrain: 60km/sol (300whr/km), needs 14 panels @13hours to recharge
  • Limiting factor is battery capacity. Hab batteries are too big to fit without chopping up the rover.

Lets consider mounting the solar panels in useful configurations while driving. The author does not say the shape or size of the rover or the panels, just saying the panel area and that two fit on the roof of each rover, overhanging on each side. Later, he stores two panels per side of the rover, using brackets he added. Let us consider towing the second rover, this gives us double the surface area and requires only 33% more energy to pull, unloaded. Lets use the 100w RTG to power the rover headlights and internals.

  • Roof: 2 panels each, 2 roofs = 4 panels @ ok angle => 400w
  • Side: 2 panels each, 4 sides = 8 panels @ poor angle =>400w to 600w
  • So 12 panels is 800w to 1000w, @300w/km = 2.6kph to 3.3kph, for 13 hour sunlight = 34km to 43km per sol
  • Or 20 panels (stack 2 deep on all 4 sides, plug in exposed panel) takes 18,000whr/(20*100w) = 9 hours to charge, 60km/sol plus 4 hours of sunlight driving at 2.6kph to 3.3kph, adds 10km to 13km for a total of 70km/sol. Still less than the 80km/sol he got in the book.

Lets assume he can make a roof rack out of the panel frames, the rover benches, and struts from the MDV and MAV. These roof mounts are large enough that each panel overhangs the sides a little more than half way.

  • Roof: 4 panels each, 2 roofs = 8 panels @ ok angle => 800w
  • Side: 2 panels each, 4 sides = 8 panels @ shadowed, poor angle =>200w to 600w
  • So 16 panels is 1000w to 1600w, @300w/km = 3.3kph to 4.5kph, for 13 hours = 43km to 58km per sol
  • Or 24 panels (stack 2 deep on all 4 sides) takes 18000whr/(24*100w) = 7.5 hours to charge, 60km/sol plus 5.5 hours of sunlight driving at 3.3kph to 4.5kph, adds 18km to 24km for a total of 78 to 84km/sol. About the same as the 80km/sol he got in the book with one rover.

Looks like one key is to minimize the stationary recharge time by increasing the number of panels. This also increases the setup and take down time, only half can be done in the dark, in order to maximize solar powered sunlight driving. The other key is to maximize solar capacity while in motion.

Lets make the roof racks bigger, 2×3 per roof, overhanging off both sides and both ends. We can drive slower for safety.

  • Roof: 6 panels each, 2 roofs = 12 panels @ ok angle => 1200w
  • Side: 2 panels each, 4 sides = 8 panels @ shadowed, poor angle =>300w
  • So 20 panels is 1500w, @300w/km = 5kph, for 13 hours = 65km per sol
  • Or 28 panels (stack 2 deep on all 4 sides) takes 18000whr/(28*100w) = 6.5 hours to charge, 60km/sol plus 6.5 hours of sunlight driving at 5kph, adds 32km for a total of 92km/sol. Now we are making progress.

I don’t think it’s feasible to mount more than 6 panels to the roof. It could be, I just don’t know the shapes we are dealing with. Driving at half the 25kph battery speed, makes for 4.8 hours of night driving per sol.

Lets work the problem backwards to find out how many panels we would need to mount on the rover to drive the whole 13 hours of sunlight without stopping to setup panels. Overnight RTG power charges batteries enough for the internal functions for the whole sol.

  • For 80km/sol @300whr/km & 13 hours => 6.2kph, 1850w (18 panels), 3×3 per roof, still too many unless we know the dimensions.
  • For 90km/sol @300whr/km & 13 hours => 7kph, 2100w (20 panels with RTG since we don’t need headlights). That’s 40 square meters of panels.
  • For 108km/sol @300whr/km & 13 hours => 8.3kph, 2500w (24 panels+RTG), 3×4 per roof. Now I’m just being silly. With that much overhang, turning may be an issue, depending on the gap between the rovers. Although, if he had a couple masts placed on the centerline of the roof, one towards the front and one towards the back, then lines going out to the roof rack for support, maybe he could pull off this many watts of power. Especially if he placed two panels back to back, vertically against each mast.

Ok, lets say that in addition to the 6 panels per roof, he can store the panels on the sides two wide and three deep. They were designed to stack and so that should be fine. This allows stationary charging with 36 panels, leaving 14 with the hab. He can charge the batteries in 18000whr/(36*100w)=5 hours. Assuming he sets up in the dark and needs 1/2 hour of sunlight to pack them away, this leaves 7.5 hours for sunlight driving. In driving configuration, the panels provide 1500w. At 300w/km = 5kph, for 7.5 hours this is 37km per sol. Plus the night battery driving of 60km is a total of over 97km/sol. Now this is enough to shave some time off the trips. Of course the Pathfinder would take up the space of one roof panel, so it would only be 93km/sol.

Solar powered driving would have also saved him from backtracking to determine the direction of the dust storm, because he would have been able to read the panel output in real time, at several select times a day for a couple days. Also, the slow driving would have reduced the chance and severity of his crash. Although longer driving time and fatigue could have increased this risk.

Reddit IAmA Gold Miner, AMA

I am Andrew C. Lee, a Bering Sea Gold Miner. AMA.

I’ve been a gold dredger for 9 years, mining offshore Nome, Alaska. I’ve designed, built, and operated several gold dredges, 6″, 8″, and 10″. My 10″ dredge was featured on Discovery Channel’s Bearing Sea Gold. Because the name “Ziggurat” was deemed too brainy for American audiences, it was called “The Edge” and later “The Eroica” on the show.

Currently I am a partner in the largest most successful suction dredge operation offshore Nome. We operate an 18″ ROV suction dredge on our 3200 acres of mining leases.

Proof: http://safonatt.com/reddit-iama-gold-miner-ama/

Ask Me Anything. There are certain topics that I will not answer in detail because they are trade secrets, such as gold production and certain technical details.

Read my AMA on Reddit: I am Andrew C. Lee, a Bering Sea Gold Miner. AMA.

Bering Sea Gold Nuggets, mined by Andrew Lee

Bering Sea Gold Nuggets, mined by Andrew Lee

Andrew C. Lee, Bering Sea Gold Miner

Andrew C. Lee, Bering Sea Gold Miner

Andrew C. Lee with a few pounds of gold he mined off the Bering Sea floor near Nome, AK

Andrew C. Lee with a few pounds of gold he mined off the Bering Sea floor near Nome, AK

A several pound sample of placer gold mined from the floor of the Bering Sea near Nome, Alaska.

A several pound sample of placer gold mined from the floor of the Bering Sea near Nome, Alaska.

Gold sample drying on an outdoor propane camp stove.

Gold sample drying on an outdoor propane camp stove.

Gold sample. Dried and screened to several sizes to determine the distribution of each mesh range.

Gold sample. Dried and screened to several sizes to determine the distribution of each mesh range.

Construction of my ice dredging hut

Construction of my ice dredging hut

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

Using 48" chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

Using 48″ chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

Andrew C. Lee in Nome working on sub-sea crawler.

Andrew C. Lee in Nome working on sub-sea crawler.

Nome sees sharp decline in offshore gold dredgers, port usage

2014 saw a sharp decline in the number of active dredges mining for gold offshore Nome, Alaska. Despite the high numbers of valid mining permits for this type of gold mining, the number of gold dredges moored in the Port of Nome (including the inner harbor, the Snake river channel, and the outer cells) numbered merely 76 at its peak this summer. Gold mining vessels in dry storage on Port of Nome property that never got in the water during 2014 numbered around 28. A similar number of dredges were being stored throughout town on private property in people’s yards; like Blue Water Mining’s $250k 8″ dredge that was in dry dock all year.

This compares to around 90 dredges operating out of the harbor in peak years of 2011 and 2012, when gold prices were 50% higher, and right after California outlawed gold dredging. The decrease in total dredges is mostly due to fewer 6″ and 8″ dredges in the water; these recreational sized operations mostly last less than one year. The lower gold prices combined with lower unemployment and better opportunities at home have decreased interest. And with good reason, most first-year Nome gold miners would have been money ahead if they had stayed home and worked a minimum wage job.

While the number of 10″ dredges has remained about the same, there has been a slight increase in the number of larger excavator-style operations. These vessels take up more space in the harbor, so the overall feel seems to be about the same, as far as crowding goes. The pullout of the Cashman Mining operations, after blowing $7.5M has opened up some space. I expect that Blue Water Gold aka Blue Water Mining won’t be able to afford to return again with their $600k 10″ dredge, after getting less gold than a decent 6″ inflatable dredge for the third year in a row; that should open us some more room.

The Port of Nome reports a sharp increase in port usage since 2011, but this is a flat out lie manipulated figure, designed to try to get more state and federal funds. The increase in numbers is due mostly to the fact that the Port started requiring docking permits for vessels parked in the Snake river (which is probably a violation of state law to charge for this) and they started counting and charging for skiffs. For example, 2011 and prior, we were one vessel; 2012 and after we are counted as 3 vessels (one boat and two skiffs).

For 2015, I expect the trend to continue, much fewer 6″ dredges, several fewer 8″ dredges, about the same number of commercial 10″ dredges, and about the same number or a couple more of larger commercial gold dredges. Most likely there will be some newer in each category, and not all of the past ones will return.

If you are interested in coming to Nome, contact me for more information.

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Question About Ice Dredging

Question from “topdogintampa”

The Pomrenkes sound like they didn’t do so well over the winter season

Basically no one does well over the winter season. It’s twice as hard, takes twice as many man hours per nozzle hour, and the gold per hour is less than half as good as it is in the summer.

I did through the ice one year in 2011, it was horrible. There was us and one other gold mining operation on all of the Bering Sea. I lost money on that venture. Even if I didn’t have any capital costs, and with gold at $1700/ozt like it was then, I made less than minimum wage.

The Discovery production company wanted us to do it again in 2012 when they filmed the first season under the ice; and we would have if they paid enough and had given us enough warning so we could have staged our equipment differently, as it was our gear was under a 15 foot snowdrift.

My ice hut did end up on one season, the green shelter on skis that they portrayed as Zeke’s. That turned out to be about $12.50/hr for the guys working on it; and they were by far the most successful.

The only reason anyone does through the ice a second year is for the TV show, or they live in Nome year round and have nothing else to do. They would do better working as a checker at a grocery store.

Construction of my ice dredging hut

Construction of my ice dredging hut

Using 48" chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

Using 48″ chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

Ad Critique: Invest with West

Check out this very exciting opportunity someone posted on an angel investor website for an offshore Nome, Bering Sea Gold, mining operation:

Looking for investors in up and coming JR Mining company with claims in Nome Alaska, can see more details on Discovery Channels hit TV show “Bering Sea Gold”. Great returns, project potential is in the Billions. Can anyone help out? Seeking investors for Gold Mining Operation in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Nome, Alaska. My company is 1 of 30 that control the gold rights, where there is est. 10 Million ounces of reserves off shore. Finished up the sampling, and raising the money for our first heavy lift mining vessel. We know for a fact we can run 40-80 ounces a day, we will give all of our investors the collateral in the equipment, and 70% of the gold until payout, then 50% for the life of the mine and equipment. This vessel can produce enough gold per season to pay partners a 50% return on their investment for the next 20-30 years. Nome Alaska is home of the most successful gold rush in american history, and the price of gold finally met with the technology needed to extract the reserves offshore as low as 350 per ounce. This is a very unique position, and very low risk with the exit strategies we have already put together. Message me for details. #Gold Mining #Precious Metals #Joint Venture #PrivatePlacement #Gold #Commodities #AngelInvestment
West B.

Now here are some of the things wrong with this ad:

His estimate of gold reserves offshore is high, and that is before the BIMA pulled it’s 45,000 ozt out, and the fleet of suction and excavator dredges have worked the area over for 20 years. The high grade stuff is almost all gone.

Now there is a large amount of medium grade gold offshore Nome, but the larger an operation the weaker the grade is that you can count on. This is because the smaller a rig, say a 8″ to 10″ diver operated suction dredge, will follow the narrow trails of gold much better and not waste time on the weaker stuff. For large operation, like the one I run, it’s not economical to skip over that weak ground, the cost determining grade and moving is too high. The grade we run is much lower, but the overall gold amount is higher.

I have dredged on the leases this company owns. Prior to the 2011 lease sale most of these new leases were held under lease from the 1999 lease sale or previous. The specific ones held by this company, I did not find enough gold on to keep my interest enough to bid very much on them. There are vast areas of leased and claimed ground around Nome that are very weak. Yes, there is gold everywhere, but a commercial operation needs to produce paying quantities. And counting on gold going to $10000 per ounce is not a sound business strategy.

It’s basic math that 70% of a small number is a small number. I’ve mentioned West Budreau’s operation in a few of my posts. Over $2,000,000 spent and over 2 seasons with large crews and they still have gotten less gold in total than I’ve done in a month with an 8″ I built for $60,000. As with anything, INVESTOR BEWARE!!!

The size of vessel and scale of operation that would be able to produce their 40 to 80 ounces per day estimate on their ground would be larger than the BIMA, and would cost a great deal more than $350 per ozt to operate.

So this is the third year of a “sampling operation” that is surprising. They don’t even have their second dredge in the water this year and I don’t think their main dredge has worked even 30 days yet this year. Their crew has never indicated that they were on a sampling mission. Last year they spent a large amount of what little dredging time they actually did on a lease owned by someone else.

People can always contact me for the inside scoop and background info on potential Nome deals. If you are someone with a large amount of money and interested more in having a great adventure than you are in reaping a large return on investment, I can also help you out with that, and help you avoid the bad schemes out there.

-Andrew C. Lee

PO Box1370, Nome, AK, 99762

Nome Update 7/15/2014

First big storm of the summer has hit Nome, expected to last a week, might be another storm right behind it.

Natural turbidity levels have been a problem for the divers for the past week, due I think to strong currents pulling up biomass from the bottom and murking out most people. Higher skilled dredgers have been able to use dive lights and “dredging by braille” to work.

A group of about six or seven long-time 6″ dredgers have called it quits. Fed up with the poor gold, the unwelcoming atmosphere of the local government, and they are just getting tired of it. They sold off their dredges, equipment, and cabins/accommodations.

There are several dredges of various sizes for sale, some that have not been in the water yet this year, some not last year either. Even the infamous Randy Horne is selling off his stuff; I guess his scheme of having 4 to 6 investors/partners on a 6″ dredge, that then has to hire divers, isn’t enough of a money maker anymore. (I’m hoping that is because he has run out of people to scam, because they have started wising up to people who make big promises and don’t deliver)

Several dredges have been doing well, these are mostly with seasoned crews. I am surprised that the 10″ NorPac is not in the water this year, other 10″ dredges of it’s fleet are working. This is the large dredge that lost power and grounded on the beach last year, bending a shaft and other damage.

I’ve been here 3 months and we have about 25 days of dredging in so far, which is pretty close to a record for us, and way more days than almost everyone else so far this year. We are much bigger, by far the largest suction dredge in the fleet, so we often get a more days than the smaller guys.

The harbor has finally removed the stupid stand-off bumpers that didn’t go low enough, thus pinning several boats under them every year during the fall low tides. Unfortunately they replaced them with these floating horizontal bumpers that don’t let the boats get close enough to the ladders. In what harbor in the world have you ever seen them put bumper stuff along the steel walls? Normally boats bring their own bumpers, right?

There are a few dredges still being constructed, big diggers. One has been under construction for a couple years, the other since early June. There is word that another smaller version similar to the rov-style dredge I work on will be back this summer, after a rebuild or two; maybe they will be here in August, they are having serious problems with their buy-back crab boat, and lack of money because they spend lots of time building and not enough time mining.

The two excavator barges that jack off the water have been getting the most time in, but they have huge costs with payroll and upkeep. I hope they succeed, they put a lot of hard work into their operation, but their cost per ozt has to be kept low enough to be profitable. I’ve seen plenty of operations where their cost per ozt has been over $10,000; when successful ones are much lower, below the price of gold of course, around $600 maybe. That’s about what it was for my 8″ dredge, which was really slim when gold was under $800.

I did the math on my old 6″ and 8″ operations, and asked around. Suction dredging is the greenest way to mine, with a burn rate of about 4 to 10 gallons per ozt recovered.

Good Luck

Free Cars for All My Employees

Lets say that I own a company and that I feel safe and reliable transportation for my employees is so important that I choose to give each employee a car. I’m paying for the car, so I get to decide what type of car they get and what features it has. This is a gift for being an employee, or in other words it is an employee benefit. A benefit is just a gift with strings attached.

Lets say an employee smokes and demands that the car I give him has a built in lighter and ashtray, or an employee drives in from out of town and demands that the car I give him has satellite internet. They can demand and I can refuse; this is called a free market. I can also fire, and get less whiny employees; this is called free market. They can quit and go try to find another employer that will give them the type of car they want; this is called free market.

How about I just want to give them a basic car, purely no frills transportation. No power steering, no power locks, no power windows. Even if 99% of cars have these. I’m upfront with my employees and prospective hires. If they choose to work for me they know what to expect, no secrets there. And if they want those features, they can pay to have them installed. I could even give them cars with no airbags or seat belts, personally I never would omit those features, but the point is I should be allowed to give or not give them whatever I want; it’s my gift.

Facts about how air bags and seat belts save lives and are important features to a safe car are not relevant; no one should be allowed to force me to pay for them if I don’t want. That is called freedom. It’s also called stupid, but that is the great thing about freedom, freedom allows stupidity. Freedom allows choice. Any attempt to remove or limit choice is an assault on freedom. Freedom is choice. Force is authoritarianism.

As a Libertarian I oppose the initiation of force. In the above example, no one is forcing me to give anyone a car, no one is forcing someone to take a car, no one is forcing the car to have certain features. The parties involved in that exchange can use their leverage and power to negotiate a situation more conducive to their desires without initiating force or violence. An outside party (or even a government) can look in on this private situation and baulk at one one side offers and what the other side agrees to, but it is never their place to interfere with free exchange between consenting adults.

If you see a situation that you don’t like and you want to use the force (violence) of government to fix it, ask first if a problem can be solved with more freedom instead of less. If less freedom, then stop, you are out of line.

Back to the car example. To improve the choices for the employer providing the free car to the employees and to improve the choices the employees have to customize the cars to suit their desires, there are several ways for the government to provide more freedom. Equalize tax burdens so a gift of a car and the gift of money equal to what the employer would spend on the car are taxed or not taxed the same. (Gasp, do we dare to remove a crony tax loophole!) Reduce regulations that drive up the cost of cars, yes government should be in charge of defining standards it’s listed right there in the US Constitution, and yes an appropriate level of regulation forcing car makers to reduce the harm their cars might do to people that do not opt in to a fully disclosed risk. But for the most part there are a lot of shenanigans from the mining of the raw materials to the buyer registering the final product that needlessly drive up the cost of a car.