Notes from the Field
Date: February 22, 2012
Reporting From: Santiago, Chile
"[T]he more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become."
Grand Fascist Council Report, 1929
When I was a kid, the morning announcements at my taxpayer-funded public school dragged on for a good 15 or 20 minutes. They announced the birthdays. They told us what was for lunch. For some reason they even told us the weather, as if a bunch of 6-year olds cared what the relative humidity was.
Then we broke out into the propaganda. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Then we sang the national anthem. Then we sang America the Beautiful. THEN we sang the state anthem, "Texas our Texas". I still hear it in my sleep from time to time.
It's bizarre, when you think about it. Children are indoctrinated from such a young age to subordinate themselves to the 'republic,' a system of government. They learn that the state is paramount above all else, and the belief is inculcated at a time when young minds are typically incapable of rational analysis.
It seems difficult to heavily distinguish such practices from those of the Deutsches Jungvolk section of the HJ-- the Hitler Youth organization for 10-14 year old boys that instilled loyalty to the Third Reich above all else.
Children learn that the United States stands for liberty... the land of the free. It's simply not questioned. That's what they're told, that's what they grow up believing. But as Hayek wrote in the early 1940s,
"Freedom and liberty are now words so worn with use and abuse that one must hesitate to employ them to express the ideals for which they [used to stand.]"
'Freedom' now comes with all sorts of strings attached, special stipulations. These days, we're told: "You're free. Now follow all of these regulations that are interpreted at the exclusive discretion of hundreds of executive agencies under the penalty of imprisonment and/or financial penalties so egregious that you'll be paying for the rest of your natural life."
The rule of law no longer exists-- not in the United States, not in the western world.
In the EU, member states and unelected, supranational agencies are now routinely violating their own charters and international agreements to bail out, print, and borrow however much they want, whenever they want, irrespective of what the law says.
Moreover, hundreds of US government executive agencies and their ever-expanding authorities are creating a complex 'shadow code' system of policies and regulations, each of which can be interpreted in the sole discretion of a single bureaucrat who's out to get you.
US-based Gibson Guitar Corp has twice been raided by FBI agents on suspicion of importing wood that violates India's trade regulations. They don't care that Gibson's CEO has a memo from the Indian government approving the deal. The wood remains confiscated, even though charges have never been filed.
There's a regulation on the books, buried deep within the system, requiring you to first fill out a form with the Census Bureau of all places. It's rarely (if ever) enforced, but it exists... and anyone who doesn't do it is subject to fine and/or imprisonment at the pleasure of the Census Bureau.
A few months ago, a fisherman from New Bedford, Mass. accidentally caught an 800-pound bluefin tuna in his trawl gear after setting out from dock. It was freakish good fortune, albeit short-lived. The man was relieved of his tuna by the National Maritime Fisheries Service because there is 'no permit that allows catching bluefin with a trawl net.'
Even having too much cash now can be considered a criminal offense. There are countless stories like Anthony Smelley's, who in 2009 was pulled over on I-70 in Putnam County, Indiana and found with $17,500 in cash. He was able to prove that the money was his, legitimately. It didn't matter. He was relieved of the cash, but charged with no crime.
You can't so much as apply for a passport now without being threatened with "fine and/or imprisonment under U.S. law including the provisions of 18 USC 1001, 18 USC 1542, and/or 18 USC 1621." The same goes for 'alteration of a passport' or even using a passport 'in violation of the restrictions contained herein..', whatever that's supposed to mean.
This is not the land of the free. The US government's extraordinary network of codes, regulations, and policies has created a nation of citizens who live in a state of constant violation, governed by criminals who have the authority to defraud them.
A few months ago, one obscure police agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was found having spent several hundred thousand dollars of funds and assets that were confiscated from fishermen (without charge) to buy a luxury boat that was used for pleasure cruises and barbecues.
In 2008, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives submitted a request for bids to purchase 2,000 Leatherman pocketknives for its agents. The ATF wanted the knives to be inscribed with the phrase "Always Think Forfeiture", as in ATF.
The order was rescinded after it was reported in the Idaho Statesman... but it's emblematic of how government agencies view their role... and ours.
At this moment, you are guilty of dozens of crimes and/or regulatory violations. Such rules are selectively enforced; the rule of law means nothing, it's all about who your connections are, whose palms are greased, and whose campaign you enriched.
Like a cheap credit card offer, all the song and dance about 'land of the free' comes with fine print at the bottom of the page-- "terms and conditions may apply, void where prohibited." This is not freedom. It's freedom*