Brown v. US

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The case of US v Brown is over; on January 18th, 2007 , Ed and Elaine Brown of Plainfield , NH , were convicted of tax evasion in a Federal Court. What I'll call the case of Brown v US then began, and seems set to continue through the Spring.

The Feds are very clever at gaining such convictions, even though nobody has yet found any law compelling anyone to pay their "income tax." They carefully screen the jurors, they browbeat defense lawyers to prevent them telling the jury what they think the law says and doesn't say, and their prosecutors use all their considerable courtroom skills. Finally, they bribe the judge, just in case he needs to intervene; and by "bribe" I mean only that they pay him an average of $130,000 a year to do their bidding. If there are any ex parte meetings in secret places to remind him of the correlation between his career prospects and a satisfactory verdict, I know nothing about them. How could I, possibly? They are secret!

The US v Brown verdict therefore was not unusual, though it's worth adding that the Feds do not win every such case. The recently released movie " America : from Freedom to Fascism" details one of the several exceptions.

Back, though, to my theme here: the new matter of Brown v US . When it became clear that he was being railroaded in the government's court, Ed Brown did something unique: he quit. He announced that there was "no point" in continuing to participate in the charade, returned home and said that he would not be taken from it alive. That really got the attention of the media; the statewide Concord Monitor provided good coverage and the libertarian Keene Free Press is doing an outstanding job.

An arrest warrant was issued, and needs execution by the time sentencing comes around in late April, but the US Marshals have said they are in no hurry, so the standoff may last that long. If Ed stays resolute, when they attack his property, he will shoot back (a militia survivalist, he is well equipped to defend his home) and knows he may well be killed in the firefight. So, perhaps, will some of the marshals. It could be Ruby Ridge or Waco , all over again--or perhaps like the less well known but barbarian case of Gordon Kahl in 1983.

Although he lives close by, I'd never heard of Ed Brown before mid-January, but it seems his intellectual journey to this confrontation with government was not one with which we might be familiar on Strike The Root. He has the idea that the FedGov has legitimate jurisdiction, but only over people in D.C., Guam , Puerto Rico , American Samoa and a few other remote bits of land called "US Possessions and Enclaves." I've heard that theory before, and disagree. The fact is of course that no government ever has legitimate jurisdiction over anyone, for every human being is an exclusive self-owner. But never mind that now; Ed has publicly stated the Feds have no jurisdiction over him, so regardless of how we got here, we are now pretty much on the same page. He also says there is no law compelling anyone to pay income tax, and nobody has been able to rebut that by identifying one--but in any case, it doesn't matter, for laws are merely one-sided contracts and so have placed no morally binding obligation upon non-signers like you and me--and Ed. So again, by different routes, we reached the same page.

Brown v US will play itself out, and I hope that he will again offer to yield at once if the Feds will show him the law that makes him liable for an income tax--for when they decline such a very reasonable offer, it will be clear to everyone that government is lying yet again. So unless Ed loses his remarkable nerve, there will be bloodshed. Now let's stand back a bit and consider whether such an outcome would help the cause of freedom.

Certainly it will, for it will be widely reported and the public will be reminded yet again that government's unique, defining attribute is force--that it does not come with a collecting bowl requesting contributions or a list of offered services from which we can choose to buy, but gets its revenue literally at gunpoint and provides them whether wanted or not. When we say that now, our hearers often look at us sideways; but if death comes to Plainfield , NH in the next couple of months, they will have to look at that truth full in its ugly face. Therefore, public resentment against government will increase, and therefore the cause of liberty will be advanced. The shootout, if it happens, will usefully damage the facade that government so carefully builds--that it's a necessary and benevolent organization acting for the public good. Instead it will once again be seen for what it is: a set of thugs acting only to enjoy and enhance their own power.

However, I can't see how it can do much more than that; and as we know, a very great deal more needs to be done, before our vision of a free society is made real. Every member of it needs to understand that government is absolutely irreconcilable with human nature, and needs to see how he can own and operate his own life in a free market peacefully, responsibly, and in prosperity. Martyrs may stimulate the search for those lessons, but cannot teach them.

Take the analogy of 16th Century England , a turbulent period in which that country changed religions. Roman Catholics burned Protestants at the stake, and Protestants burned Roman Catholics, and when the smoke had cleared, the Prods came out on top; what did all those gruesome executions and noble sacrifices achieve?

The Prods learned that the Papists were brutal, bloodthirsty bigots and the Papists learned that the Prods were brutal, bloodthirsty bigots, and the bulk of the population learned that both passionately believed their points of view but were also brutal, bloodthirsty bigots. Did they bring about any genuine changes of mind and belief? I very much doubt it. Those changes--the ones that mattered--came about gradually, helped perhaps by xenophobic distrust of Roman influence but mainly by patient preaching, teaching and individual study.

So while it's certainly honorable to Just Say No and resist government--violently or otherwise--that won't suffice. It tells the public something seems wrong and that some feel strongly about it, but fails to show exactly what it is, or how it might be fixed.

I therefore favor a different approach, without need for drama, confrontation, or even refusal to obey commands, whether legislated or not. Now, that doesn't mean it's right to obey a command to pour crystals of Zyklon-B into a shower room full of helpless victims, nor that each of us should not decide for ourselves on limits to the obedience we will give; refusal to pay tax is very honorable, for it dries up the tyrant's revenue stream; refusal to join his army or police force is honorable because it denies him resources to do violence; refusal to use his government school monopoly is honorable for it reduces child abuse, and so on. My point is that the degree to which we each keep a low or a high profile is not nearly as important as the action we take quietly to re-educate our neighbors. Our aim should be nothing less than 100% elimination of every last miserable trace of government, and therefore to do what it takes to achieve that specific objective.

I've made that argument before on this forum, and don't apologize for repeating it--for there is no suggestion more vital. When everyone is re-educated and so understands how and why government is needless as well as repugnant to human nature, it will implode--for nobody will want to work for it. All such indispensible support will be withdrawn and it will collapse in fragments. Further, being so educated means that after the implosion, nobody will call for its repair; instead, all will go about their peaceful business in the resulting free market, well understanding what they are about.

The job can be done in two decades, and between this day and that, it doesn't seem to me to matter a whole lot what else we choose to do.

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?"