"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself." ~ Michel de Montaigne
Signs of Autumn
Exclusive to STR
October 1, 2008
One of the reasons I love living in the Northeast is the change of seasons. I've lived in other areas of the country where there are some rather severe changes between winter and summer (and I love a good snowfall), but they miss the finer points of spring and fall almost entirely. How unfortunate for the millions stuck living in geographically inferior areas, to miss the subtle differences and beauties of the whole year, especially fall and winter. In fact, it's in the latter part of the year that I prefer to listen to Vivaldi's Four Seasons, which is actually a collection of concertos written over a span of time. (And if you haven't heard the concertos played by these guys, then you haven't heard the Four Seasons yet.) There are actually several pieces of classical music that I will only listen to in the colder, darker months. I'm not sure why that is, but it may have something to do with the holidays and traditions that decorate much of the autumn and winter seasons up until New Year's Day. They are indeed the finest festivities that Western Culture has to offer, in my opinion.
And how grateful I am that this last year I found a new way to herald the coming of election season. This was the year that I called up the county voter registration office and had my name removed from the voter registration rolls. In the eyes of the rest of the country, I have officially become a grouchy old man. It matters little to me that they won't understand why I did it.
If I'm going to renounce the violence of war, I must renounce all violence. There is no getting around the fact that voting is in fact an act of violence. It has been couched in terms of "civic duty" or "obligation," even a "privilege." It is none of these things. There is a crucial difference between obedience to the state that is forced, and obedience that is not. In the government's false construct of "civic duty," the obedience is clearly not forced.
In matters of taxation, obedience is most definitely compelled. I do not pay taxes out of some sense of responsibility to the hallowed Founding Fathers. I pay them because I do not want my stuff confiscated and my butt thrown in jail. However, when I was a voter (even when I cast what I knew to be a useless ballot for Ron Paul in February), I was going out of my way for Leviathan. I gave the beast legitimacy. I did it "just in case." I did it sometimes while licking my lips, hoping that some of the outcomes I desired might come about, not fully understanding that those same outcomes ultimately end up with a gun pointed somewhere, at someone.
Some people may tire of this summation of the democratic process. They point to the peaceful nature of what goes on at the voting booths. Granted, what you have for the most part is a bunch of middle class sorts stopping by the local school for a couple of minutes. No violence, no coercion, no riots or shouting. And sometimes doughnuts! However, you have to be willing to follow the process to its end. The majority decides. The minority doesn't. Let's say that the minority then decides to withhold funding. The government, whose existence neither the majority nor the minority questions, notifies the minority that refusal to fund the majority's decision is not an option. The minority ignores this warning. The government sends another notice. The second warning is dismissed. The government wastes a great deal of time, effort, and funding to seek out the bank accounts of the minority to freeze their assets. The minority still doesn't obey. The government comes to the doors of those in the minority, demanding compliance. The minority refuses on principle. The government attempts to arrest the minority. The minority resists. The guns come out. There's your direct line.
You may argue that at any point in this logical progression, the minority would most likely give in prior to the guns being un-holstered and the overt violent act being carried out. You'd be right. We are not living in a day or age, after all, when whole communities of Americans will stand up to tyrannical governments with guns. Most Americans won't do that anymore. Those who might consider it have seen what will happen. So where is the violence if after the first or second warning, the minority gives in and pays back-taxes with enormous fees? If you can't see it, you're reading the wrong article. In fact, you're at the wrong website. Please go elsewhere and listen to politicians promise a puppy to every homeless orphan boy. (With money taken from the minority at the point of a gun, of course.)
That is directly where my pushing of a button on an electronic voting screen leads. It leads to the threat of violence from the government that is encouraging my participation. While colorful autumn leaves are falling; while my mind and heart are being prepared for nostalgic thoughts of a cool, crisp Halloween, a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast, a (cross your fingers) White Christmas accompanied by this gorgeous piece by Stravinsky; I am also engaging in a violent act by silently threatening those with whom I disagree.
I am almost persuaded by the argument that occasionally, an item ends up on the ballot that, if a majority decides against it, will result in a lowering of the tax burden, or a diminishing of government spending or regulation. But it is still a game rigged by a violent force: the government. They came up with the idea, and the process for deciding on it. They are also probably even fixing it. This group of people constituting this government, convinced that the state still bears some resemblance to a freedom-loving entity set in motion by the genius of freedom-loving Founding Fathers, has set the table. They have chosen the menu. You may defeat them by saying 'No!' and spending time, money and effort getting the majority on your side, but they'll be back, trying to serve you dinner on another night. The most persuasive article I've read at this website is encouraging in one regard, concerning a push by the government in the state of Maryland to increase the tax burden, but a brief look at Maryland in comparison with other states reveals that there are only 11 states with higher sales taxes, and only 15 states with higher gas taxes. And Maryland has nothing to brag about as far as income tax. Their rates are just about as bad as the majority of states that steal directly from their citizens. Take a look at this revenue table, and you can see that Maryland is the 15th highest state in revenue (i.e. stolen money) per person. Keep in mind that there are still poor people living in that state.
To gain satisfaction in the fact that the state government was prevented from increasing this horrible burden is understandable. But the bigger picture is that the government of Maryland has not been stopped at getting what it wants in other ways. Vote down one tax proposal, another one springs up. They have the money, time, and resources to spend all day every day dreaming up ways to confiscate your wallet. Understand that a sales tax is now barely an afterthought to Americans who live in states that add on a little something extra every time you walk up to the counter; and a tax on fuel isn't seen at all, as it's prefigured into the price displayed on the sign by the side of the street.
Since these taxes seem pretty much set in stone wherever they have been enacted, so that a vote against them at the ballot is normally out of the question, exactly how can citizens peacefully resist? A boycott of essential needs like food and gasoline is out of the question. What is left is for you as an individual to find a way to get up quietly, and peacefully walk away from the table government has set. As long as there is a government, there will be tax. Even states that don't have a dreaded income tax, or an annoying sales tax, will find a way to take your money through some other tax. There is not a state in this union where you can move and not be taxed, not only by the federal government, but by the state itself. There is no way to completely avoid government or its revenue, until enough people wake up, throw up, get up, and walk away from the table. And it must be done as individuals in order to be a true freedom movement.
The methods and processes of this migration from governmental influence will (and should) vary from person to person. I cannot and will not dictate the number of ways it should be done, because depending on your circumstances with work, family, income and locale, my advice may or may not be worth the effort. For instance, I avoid toll roads, not only on principle, but I have also found a lot of beautiful country drives in so doing, and I usually drive stress-free. However, in my locale, it is almost impossible to cross certain state boundaries without at least paying the government to cross a bridge. Therefore, advising people like me to avoid paying all tolls is not practical.
But one thing I feel comfortable in encouraging everyone to do is to join me in a new fall tradition, and celebrate--if only in your heart--the fact that you, too, called up your county voter registration office and sent in the fax with your name and address for removal. You bowed out of the dinner they're serving. You will remain immovable. You will not rub your hands and lick your lips. You will not be distracted into rejoicing over the government's pretended acquiescence at the polls.
In Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl spoke of an experience he had in a Nazi concentration camp. He had smuggled in a manuscript for a book he had been writing, only to deliver his clothes, and hence the book, to his enemies. Having no choice, he gave up the one last physical remnant of his former existence, to become nothing more than another inmate. But then, as if miraculously, he was given the ragged prison uniform of another inmate who had already been executed, and found in its pocket a copy of the Shema Yisrael, "the most important Jewish prayer." In this moment, he asked himself, "How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence' other than as a challenge to live my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?"
You must live this freedom in your heart, beginning this season.