"It [government] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." ~ Alexis de Tocqueville
America: from Freedom to Fascism'
Exclusive to STR
January 8, 2007
Here is a professionally produced, full-length movie that alerts Joe Sixpack to the erosion of his liberties, and as such it deserves our close attention. This reviews its strengths and weaknesses.
The movie (hereinafter, "AF2F") was produced and narrated by Aaron Russo, who in 2004 came close to winning the LP's nomination for President and who may be best known for producing the hilarious comedy (and useful primer on commodity investing) "Trading Places." Production quality is excellent, and Russo injects himself into the film as narrator and interviewer, which is reminiscent of Jonathan Gullible exploring Corrumpo as Russo flies to Washington and knocks on doors in the corridors of power. He aims to make Joe get out of his couch, get mad and refuse to take it any more, and Joe can readily identify with him.
AF2F conveys three main themes:
- The income tax is a total fraud, enforced without any legal basis
- Americans are on the brink of losing every last shred of privacy and self-governance, and
- The primary culprit for the above is a shadowy group of international bankers
The first two of those are done very well indeed, and arouse anger in the audience; the third attempts to direct that anger, and unfortunately aims it in the wrong direction. The author of those outrages is not a set of anonymous moneylenders, but the institution of government itself.
The movie ends with an account of the Outrage #2, and very powerfully; Russo shows that close and illegal surveillance started long before 9/11, but nicely denounces the odious Patriot Act and incorporates a fine clip from the ACLU. Image and music are combined skillfully to move the audience to anger and action as the movie ends, and that alone may justify helping pass it around to family and friends; it's hard for anyone to stay complacent after a 109-minute exposure to AF2F.
Russo's treatment of the complex subject of the income tax is also done superbly. I'm somewhat familiar with it but have never seen a better expos'--and all done in less than an hour! Although he doesn't hide the intricacies of the law (even showing the audience what "apportionment" means), he relies more on letting government people try--and fail--to answer simple questions about what law compels anyone to file 1040s, pay the tax, etc. Central to that approach is Russo's interview of Sheldon Cohen, a former Commissioner and Chief Counsel for the IRS--who completely stumbles over the simplest, most basic question! If a person like that cannot show the applicable law, it's fair indeed to conclude that none exists.
He interviews many others, to the same effect. Three former IRS employees appear, each of them convincing and sincere, and each of them declaring they have searched but failed to find any law obliging Americans to pay a tax on what we earn. This is dynamite! I've met and spoken to one of them (John Turner), and he is an earnest, brave, intelligent and genuine man. There is an outstanding interview with a juror from the IL State case in which Whitey Harrell was acquitted--she tells of how first she, and then the other 11 jurors, came to see that the judge had failed, despite explicit requests, to show the jury what law obliged Mr. Harrell to file a tax return. If only the average juror had that much intelligence and integrity!
Two Congressmen (Hart and Paul) also appear and, again, both admit to having found no such law. So AF2F does an excellent job of exposing the income tax as the Swindle of the Century.
That then is the good news about the movie. The flip side is its unfortunate, repeated emphasis on the evils of the Federal Reserve, and its attribution of blame to an unnamed group of international bankers aiming to rule the world. This is conspiracism writ large, and is plain silly.
Of course, like every one else in Washington, the Federal Reserve is far from blameless. Banks do very nicely indeed out of their alliance with the FedGov, just as the latter prospers by borrowing from the former to buy votes with benefits not paid for out of current taxes. Half an hour with Murray Rothbard's What Has Government Done to Our Money? Suffices, however, to put the whole subject in a sensible perspective. The idea that the Fed controls the Feds like puppets on a string is rubbish; without the laws that grant bankers special privilege (like the one forcing creditors to accept their bits of paper in payment), no banker would have any heavier clout than your neighborhood 7-11.
AF2F calls out indignation that the money extracted from us in the income-tax fraud is really paid over to a set of "private banks"--just as if it would be quite okay if the extraction were legalized and the money handed to a bunch of politicians! This is the huge flaw in the film, and is most unfortunate--even if it were true, which it's not (only about a quarter of income tax revenues equate to interest paid on the FedGov's debt). Suppose Russo were fully to succeed; suppose there were an uprising of public indignation and the income tax were cancelled and the $900 billion per year it collects were confiscated instead by a National Sales Tax and then spent by government solely on projects designed as usual to purchase votes--none at all being paid to the moneylenders.
It's the last time they would ever be able to borrow money, and that would, I suppose, be a small improvement, but the total government spend would fall by only $175 billion a year. The other $2,225 billion (Federal) and roughly a further $2,500 billion (state and local) spending of our money would still continue; the whole effect would be a theft-reduction of less than 2% of what we earn (and if you think they'd actually reduce it, rather than just re-allocate the spending, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you'll want to buy). At its very best, therefore, the impact of AF2F would be to reduce the government burden upon us by 2%. B-i-g deal.
Had the film identified the correct culprit--government itself--it could have pointed correctly to what needs to be done, patiently over the next decade or three, along the lines of what I wrote under The Power of One--and which will, in due course, bring about a dissolution of all government at Federal, state and local levels along with all the massive evils they bring--including, for good measure, the Federal Reserve and any sinister associates dreaming of world dictatorship.
That's a heap less sexy than marching on Washington and refusing to accept a Real ID card, and places a greater strain upon the brain; but unlike the latter, it will actually do the job. This film is, alas, a prime example of trimming the branches of evil but totally failing to hack at the root. Is it, even so, a good way to focus our friends' attention to how little freedom we have left? That's a tough call. It describes two of the symptoms very, very well--but prescribes the wrong cure. See it for yourself, and decide accordingly; it's available from Google Video, from Netflix or a local video rental, or can be bought from Amazon or elsewhere.