Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
An interesting phenomenon: You receive a letter, signed by a group of people unknown to you, asking you to send them a large check, and implying that if you don’t, there could be unpleasant consequences. You laugh, and throw it away. Perhaps, if you’re sufficiently annoyed, you could send a copy to the authorities, asking that they put a halt to such a scam.
Now suppose you receive an identical letter, but the letterhead is City of XXX, or Revenue Department, State of XXX, or, God forbid, Internal Revenue Service. You don’t laugh! You don’t throw it away! And you most certainly don’t ask the authorities to admonish the senders, because they ARE the senders! More likely, you get your checkbook and comply with the demand. Why? What’s the difference?
Only in recent years, I regret to say, have I come to realize that impressive terms such as State of XXX, or United States, or Department of Taxation, or Justice, or whatever, are simply the pseudonyms used by very ordinary people seeking to control you, and seize your property. By themselves, they are nothing; you’d pay no attention to them if you encountered them in your day-to-day activities. But they have somehow gotten themselves elected to positions of “public service,” and Lo!! They have thereby acquired the power to control your person and property. It is an amazing, and sadly unappreciated, phenomenon. “Public servants,” it seems, are those privileged people who are to be served by the public.
If you were to ask one of these officious strangers why you should send him and his colleagues your money, the answer would almost certainly be: because it’s the law (all genuflect)!! And he would be right: It IS a law, duly passed by the legislature. Ah, another one of those words: legislature. How much nicer that word sounds than “a bunch of acquisitive, bossy strangers,” or even “gang.”
If, when you had received the demand I mentioned initially, you asked one of the signers why you should give him anything, and he replied, “Because we said so,” you’d have doubled over laughing. However, when the strangers operate under the aegis of “government,” or “the state,” they expect to be taken very seriously, and, tragically, they are. And it’s all because, instead of saying “We said so,” they most solemnly proclaim, “It’s been passed by the legislature and is LAW!” Instead of being what a group of strangers want, it’s now the “written will of the legislature”--as the law dictionary defines a statute. What a difference a word makes! The word “robbery” no longer applies; it’s now sanitized and perfumed and called “taxation.”
Do those strangers demanding your obedience, and your money, ever offer any other excuse for their demands? Never, to my knowledge. Suggest that the true basis of their operation is not a bunch of words on paper, but the use of force to obtain what they want, up to and including lethal force if necessary, and they will deny it with indignation. The justification is invariably that it is the “written will of the legislature: the LAW.” If you point out that your person and property are, of right and nature, yours, and that your written will is that they go away and let you alone, they will not be amused; and they will not go away.
The difference, you see, is that you, and others like you, are just people, but THEY are The State, The Government, The Board of Alderman, etc. That changes everything, doesn’t it? Well, doesn’t it?
And interestingly, they claim that their power is derived from the people, or delegated to them by the people, according to the state and federal constitutions to which they have sworn allegiance. A miracle! Or, more likely, a scam.