"It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." ~ David Brin
Recollections of a Visit to a Bank
Exclusive to STR
April 12, 2007
Some years ago, I paid a visit to a strange bank.
It wasn't "strange" in the sense of being weird or sinister, just in the sense that I'd not been there before; it was not my regular bank, and so it was strange to me. The reason I went was that I'd come across an old piece of plastic in my drawer, and wanted to try it out.
It bears a symbol not displayed by any of the local banks, so I called on this other one in a nearby town, to see if it would work there.
But I have this horror, you see, of these impersonal machines gobbling up a card they don't like and refusing to spit it back at me, so I went inside the bank first to make sure a teller would rescue it for me should it wind up in the belly of the beast. I'm a timid soul, as regular readers will know.
Well, the teller next available was tall and blonde and spoke, I discovered, with a slight but unmistakable German accent. Forty-something, she had her long hair kinda bouffed up on top, which made her a little taller than she'd have been had it been hanging down her back like on a flower child, and of course I was not so ill-mannered as to peek over and see if she was wearing high heels. But she was not thin relative to her height, so I could see at a glance she was a lady to reckon with, especially if approaching at speed.
Call me sentimental, but the instant, overall effect of this image on my mind was that of a senior enlisted lady in the SS, in the Ravensbr'ck women's concentration camp in 1944, dressed in a smart uniform and wielding a whip.
And she did not smile. I do need to make that clear.
I explained my concern to discover whether her bank's ATM would swallow my plastic card, and she said, "May I have your license, please?"
Remember the slight German accent, won't you? This request was not made in the style of Peter Sellers' bumbling Officer Clouseau, asking the blind street musician in Paris in "The Return of the Pink Panther," "Do you 'ave a license?" No, this was someone as soulless as the subject ATM, saying, albeit in English, "Ihre Papieren, bitte."
Well, of course, how was I to know to which license she might have been referring? We need so many licenses these days. Was it the license to eat? The license to work? The license to speak out of turn? The license to commit banking? So I said, "You mean, my walking license?"
A few milliseconds passed without response, while she digested this outrageous piece of English impertinence; but not many. "No," she said, "your drivers' license." All this--did I mention?--without the shadow of a smile.
Licenses, to this Wagnerian frau, were very serious business.
Off she went, to speak with her oberleutnant, and back she came with the bad news. We don't think it will work, but you can try it if you like and we'll retrieve it for you if the machine won't give it back. Fine, thanks much.
But then she could not resist a parting shot, as profound in irrelevance as erroneous in content: "Driving is a privilege, you know!"
"Oh!" I rejoined, "Where did you come across that piece of nonsense?"
She made no reply, except to repeat her assertion, and that was that. Nary a smile, I must repeat, relieved her stern expression. Of course, I knew already the answer to my question: She had heard that nonsense from the government, either in one of its schools or perhaps in its Citizenship Classes for new arrivals to this Land of the Free. Driving, it had told her, was a privilege, not a right. Privileges can be taken away, at the stroke of a bureaucratic pen. Rights, of course, cannot. That's why the first ten Amendments are called the Bill of Rights, not the Bill of Privileges.
You'll find the Right to Drive in Amendment #9; it says there that unless a particular power has been delegated to government in the rest of the Constitution, they don't have it; accordingly, they don't have the power to grant or withhold a privilege to drive. My Teutonic teller told it upside down.
Now, of course, if a road were owned and operated privately, the owner could offer a license to drive on it on any terms he thought would maximize his profits; but they are not. They are operated instead under the perfect oxymoron of being "public property"; and therefore, nobody may be excluded.
Well, my strange visit to this strange bank was not quite over. I happened to be wearing one of my favorite T-shirts, which announces, "I'm From the Government, and I'm Here to Help You." And between the two halves of that declaration is shown a picture of a hand, holding a revolver pointed directly at the eye of the beholder. It's very subtle, but I hope you get the point.
It was, indeed, noticed by a fellow customer at the bank, a total stranger, who called over, "Great T-shirt! Where can I get one?"
It turned out that this gentleman worked for the State Department of Revenue Services (the tax collectors), and so I learned that the instinct for liberty is by no means dead in New Hampshire, not even in the very halls of Authority.
We chatted for a while, and I told him that for the T-shirt he could write to Freedom Enterprises at 1576 Main Market Rd , Burton , OH 44021 ; and that he could read why I was running for Governor--platform here--which he did, and subsequently e-mailed me an offer of support.
So you see, my strange visit to a strange bank was not a waste, after all.