"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
This is one of those columns I’d hoped to never have to write, the kind that’ll probably get other libertarians pointing fingers at me and preaching about all the things I could’ve done differently, but here’s what happened – or has, so far.
I moved to a different residence here in Vermont back in November, and along with the new maison, I also decided it was no longer practical or desirable – physically or financially – to have a post office box for “snail-mail.” However, the new pad, built in 1972, didn’t have a mailbox – and never had. So I went to a hardware store, got a big large capacity one, some stick-on number and letters, and a post to mount it on. I’d spoken with the district postmaster by phone about getting placed on the delivery route, and the regulations were simple but non-negotiable: So many inches from the ground to the bottom of the box (I had my neighbor’s pre-existing one to judge by), name inside the box, house number on the outside. And, it had to be on the opposite side of the road from my driveway. There was then a discrepancy as to my address – something you’d think would be pretty self-evident. But you’d be wrong . . . at least when dealing with the US Postal Service. In order to receive mail, a town different from the one I live in must be used, along with its zip code. Private couriers – such as FedEx or UPS – routinely use the actual town without mishap, but evidently this is too much to expect of a government monopolized operation. No real surprise, I shouldn’t think, to most anyone living in the real world.
Well, I got the box set up well enough and started getting mail. Then on December 22nd, just after dark at around 5:00 PM, I was standing at my living room windows when I saw a large pickup truck (what I could really see were the running lights) slow down suspiciously on the road out front. Before I could even react, I heard three loud whacks in the stillness of the relatively remote area where I am, and then the truck continued north, not even hurrying, as if the driver expected no immediate reaction.
Unfortunately, he was right. My driveway is about .2 miles from the road, and so even if I had run out there at full tilt (with a firearm for protection – I like to think I’m no fool, and I had one with me at the time), the driver would’ve been gone before I could’ve ever gotten close enough to try memorizing the vehicle taxation and tracking number (i.e., license plate). What I did do was pile myself and the dog into my vehicle at a normal pace, blaze out to the end of the driveway, high beams on, and survey the damage.
Sure enough, that bastard of a driver had stove in both my mailbox and my absent neighbor’s (it was at that point that I surmised the small amount of damage to my neighbor’s mailbox I’d observed two days prior was in fact no accident of the mail carrier’s during the icy conditions at the time, especially since my own wasn’t damaged that time around . . . but that’s another story). It looked like the work of a bat, possibly a pipe, and after beating the opening of my own mailbox around with a hammer for a bit, I at least got the door to close again. The red flag on the outside of the box for outgoing mail was also rendered useless, so I scooped it up off the ground, and headed back to the house. Merry Christmas to me.
Next came a very tough decision. Because in examining my further options in a fit of righteous anger, from anything I could see, I could do absolutely nothing – or I could engage the State apparatus in seeking some kind of “remedy.”
Let me be very clear that I was under no illusion that contacting government employees would make me whole again in any way. In fact, I saw it for precisely what it was – a useless gesture. It was, perhaps, in many ways, the same as or even worse than doing nothing. But it was also the sole recourse I had. Such is the absurd way in which our current world is structured. So in the interest of science (and yes, by then I was already formulating the idea of writing this), I followed what steps were available. And they weren’t many:
The town I reside in has no local police force (which I find agreeable), so it was the Vermont State Police to whom I placed my call. After dithering with two 911 dispatchers, I was told I’d be getting a return call from a trooper. Five minutes later, I did. He was polite, understanding, and in no way able to take any meaningful action, as I expected. He said he might drive by my residence later to see if there was any evidence of other damage elsewhere, but if he ever did, I never heard about it. I expect he didn’t.
Next, I found out via a brief Internet search that a victim of mailbox vandalism can file a report with the US Postal Inspection Service – the armed police force branch of the post office. You can do this the old-fashioned way, by filling out a paper PS Form 2016, or by sending a webform on the USPIS’s site. I chose the faster, postageless latter. The only ostensible purpose of this is to compile statistics for various regions. Investigations are only even considered if there appears to be an epidemic in a given area over time. This is by their own open admission. As a result of this, I am supposed to receive a PS Label 33, pictured here. The actual sticker is only 4 ½” X 2 ½” and is supposed to be stuck on the front of the mailbox.
Like that’s really going to deter a drunk 17 year old showing off for his buddies on a deserted back road at one o’ clock in the morning. Next joke.
Finally, at around eight o’ clock the following morning, I contacted the same local district postmaster to inform him what happened – mostly so the lady who serves as the actual carrier would be aware of the vandalized boxes in advance – and to make a second request for one of those stickers, just for the sheer hell of it. Let’s see if I get either of them ever.
At the time of this writing, that’s the end of the story. There’s been no further vandalism, but there’s also been no government response. As for that last, I’m not holding my breath. But it might be instructive to see how this entire episode might not have happened at all in a truly free, voluntary society.
To begin, for certain, any society will have its share of indiscriminate malefactors – and teenagers blowing off steam on holiday break from the government indoctrination centers (publick skools) they’re forced to regularly attend are one kind we’re for the time being saddled with. But it was US postal regulations that mandated my mailbox be placed where it was in the first instance.
Let me actually rephrase that. I said my mailbox? Actually, even though I paid for it (including sales tax), and performed the labor to install it, according to federal “law,” the mailbox is actually government property. Hell, where’s my “free” (taxpayer financed) replacement if that’s the case? “Free” cell phones, but not mailboxes? What’s up with that, Obama? So not only was I forced to put the box in a government-designated area if I wanted mail delivery services, but – just like telephones in the days of the AT&T monopoly prior to the 1970s – the box itself is not even considered mine.
In a free society, any number of competing companies might’ve allowed for me to place my mailbox wherever I liked, based on competing fees and rates. Right near my front door would likely be an option. Or anywhere else on my property, within sane limits. I might even choose to place video surveillance or some other form of intruder detection in the area, to be extra safe. And the box would be mine. Or if not, willingly rented from a firm that would be obligated to remove or abandon it, as appropriate, should I choose to switch services. Any damages by hooligans might be investigated fully by the mail company itself, by a separate insurance firm, or through a private detective agency. The suspected perp, if then located, would either demonstrate his innocence or accept responsibility and compensate me, the property owner, or otherwise suffer the economic consequences of his refusal. There would actually be a property-based incentive to find him (or her, or them) in fact, in order to prevent further financial and material loss. In the current government-infested socialist model, however, no such justice is obtainable, as is clear to see. Correspondingly, no such motivation is present, either.
Mischief-making teenagers running amok can certainly be destructive. But who are the greater and more constant vandals, Huns and barbarians? Who demands and absorbs our tax monies in ever greater quantities while offering nothing but non-performance, arrogance, corruption, and senseless waste in return?
Government is the greatest failing of what is erroneously referred to as “civilization.”
It’s time we got rid of it. And then as for civilization, we can actually start building one.