Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
Decades ago I heard a speaker say that, in any dispute with authorities about an alleged violation of a law, the important thing was to read the law, word for word. The implication was that those citing the law might not know what the law actually said.
I put that theory to the test years ago when the local city rulers cited me for having “weeds” in my yard, (our lawn service was late in cutting the grass) and ordered me to cut them, or have the city do it, for an exorbitant fee. An ordinance was cited. When I read the ordinance (thank God for the Internet!), I found that the definition of “weeds” was, if I recall correctly, any vegetation exceeding six inches in height. I informed the city that I did not have the equipment to remove or cut down the trees and shrubs on our property (“vegetation” includes a lot of growing stuff!) and pointed out that, if the ordinance was to be administered impartially, there wouldn’t be a tree or shrub in the entire city. I didn’t hear from them again--and besides, the lawn guys came the next day anyway.
As I grew older, however, I came to realize that it didn’t actually matter very much what the law said. The officials administering and enforcing their own laws don’t really care, and the judges adjudicating the laws are part of the team. The collection of taxes, for instance, is routinely done with no regard whatsoever for existing laws, and pointing this out to the responsible parties is a waste of time.
It occurred to me that the real question involved the relation between a man and the “state,” not whether this particular regulation, or that, was going to be enforced or not. In other words, if “my” property is actually mine, how can others, with whom I have entered into no arrangement whatever, have a claim upon it? What kind of “law” can take what is undeniably mine, and make it theirs? It became depressingly clear to me that my person and property were regarded by The Rulers as theirs, to be treated as they pleased. I learned that a “law” was the “written will of the legislature,” so that whatever those strangers wanted became, somehow, binding upon me.
As a result, I decided that in dealing with The Rulers, I wouldn’t waste time arguing niceties of the law, for which they have no respect anyway, but, instead, to ask more fundamental questions. No more arguing details, but asking about basics. I’m not foolish enough to think that hardened bureaucrats will turn away from their lives of demanding and seizing; but hopefully, some of them might actually stop and think about what they are doing, and perhaps have a change of heart. Arguing that they are in violation of this regulation, or that statute, will only stiffen their resolve to accomplish their goal; but asking them, in a non-aggressive way, to outline the process by which they have gained dominion over your person and property will give them pause, if only because they’ve never been asked that before.
I decided to test my theory in a very non-confrontational way, by writing my state Senator and Representative, with whom I had previously established some rapport, just to see what kind of reaction I would get. This is what I wrote:
Dear Representative Koenig:
Can you answer a question which has puzzled me, and others, for a few years now? It is this: How have the strangers calling themselves "Missouri" or the "State" or "government" gained control over my life and property? They expect me to take their demands seriously, and will punish me should I disregard them.
Is this dominion over me pursuant to some contract between me and them? If so, where is it? But if there is no contract, how have I become subject to them? I wonder how I can be considered a free man if my life and property are at the disposal of strangers.
I expect to produce an article for the Internet with your response, although I will not mention your name if you so request.
Thanks for a considered answer!
Paul A. Hein Jr., M.D.
I got a response from the Representative’s legislative assistant, speaking on behalf of his boss. To say the least, I was surprised--and delighted--to read it.
Dear Paul A. Hein Jr., M.D.,
Part of the issues fall on the blame for our culture and ignorance over the last 30 years. As government has encroached on our freedoms and taken possession of our property, citizens remained silent and apathetic to stopping and reversing the process. Over one hundred years ago, people “owned” their land. Now people must pay the government for the “right” to keep their cars. For years, Congress pushed to establish an income tax, but it was defeated by the voice of the people. Now those people who keep silent and those who do not get involved in the political process are drowned out by others who push for more government intrusion, more government handouts, and high taxes to cover their bills.
Health Insurance was once known as a “protection” from unforeseen and unaffordable health events such as cancer, organ failure, car accidents, diseases, and other uncommon health-related matters. Now people demand that government force insurance companies to provide for preventative care, ambulance services, and now, over the counter medications and contraceptives. This will result in higher premiums, like in Massachusetts, and less access to healthcare, like our Canadian and British counterparts.
The honest truth is our culture is demanding that government take more and give us less. No one should have to pay the government year after year to keep their house, car, or even to make a salary. The problem is that the people, on the whole, are not motivated to vote out and not vote for politicians who refuse to reverse the taxing trend. As representative Koenig would enjoy drafting and passing a bill to end collecting taxes for vehicles, homes, and income, there is a large group of individuals who are now receiving those revenues for government programs, public schools, and parks. Until people in force demand that government programs are reduced and taxes repealed, these taxes will remain. Worse yet, many legislators are more focused on creating the next tax credit or welfare program than to reduce taxes and letting people “own what they buy.” Until the Missouri legislature and Federal Government is filled with a majority of anti-tax and anti-handout programs, progress towards “true ownership” will become a thing of the past.
I do not ask you to continue the fight alone, but to encourage and find more to join in demanding that these “right to own taxes” are repealed.
Daniel S. Wilhelm
Legislative Assistant to Representative Koenig
Mr. Wilhelm has graciously given his permission to quote him in this article. To date, I’ve received no reply from my state senator. Maybe because she’s thinking about something she’s never given serious thought to before. Even if she never replies, the idea has been planted. “By what right do I take other people’s property, and direct their lives?” The question will never be answered if it isn’t asked!