Pushing Back Against the State

A friend recently brought my attention to the Orwellian American Community Survey, a 48-question survey that is sent by the Census Bureau to a random sample of households and asks whether you have difficulty concentrating, how much you paid to heat your home last year, how many times you’ve been married, whether you have a toilet, and on and on.

In 2010 (and in the previous three decades) I sent in my regular census form with the first two questions filled in, those that respond to the Census Bureau’s Constitutional authority to conduct an enumeration every ten years.  I left the rest blank.  I got one visit from a census-taker and told her to get lost.  That was the end of it.  My friend, who is less interested in matters of constitutionality, tells me he simply threw his away and ignored the people who came knocking on his door until they gave up.  I think that’s what I would do with the ACS if I ever got one.

I got my driver’s license renewed last week and they took my thumb print.  I thought of resisting, but to what end?  The DMV drones would simply deny my license, and then what?  Mount some kind of campaign?  I have no time for such a thing, and a driver’s license is a necessity.

Last fall I was summoned for jury duty.  I called the specified phone number the night before and heard that I needn’t report.  But for some reason they decided I was a no-show.  The consequence?  I got a post card scolding me, no more.  (I was prepared to quote the 13th Amendment to the judge, the one that outlaws involuntary servitude.  I was also prepared to go ahead and serve, if the case were an interesting one where I might apply jury nullification.)  My friend just ignores jury summons.

I am about to begin remodeling work on my house, including re-doing a couple of bathrooms.  The building code has gotten quite a bit more intrusive since I built my house in 1978.  My neighbors are laughing at me since both did their bathrooms without permits.  But for various reasons I am going the permit route.  And in truth, some of the provisions that I bristled at first turned out, upon reflection, to be beneficial to me.

And to round out my list of sins, I never mounted the front license plate on my Thunderbird convertible.  I just thought that would spoil its looks, but it occurred to me that I probably can’t be caught by red-light cameras.  I’m amazed that I haven’t been stopped in eight years.

So the question I ask myself (and you) is: where to draw the line — when to push back and when to go along.  The aforementioned examples suggest that the consequences of resistance are likely to be far less than what we fear.  For that we can thank bureaucratic ineptitude.  Random citizens are almost as likely to fall prey to some bureaucratic outrage as are resistors.

I guess the answer is that each of us should do our own cost-benefit analysis.  How good will I feel about resisting and what is it likely to cost me?  Of course that’s often difficult to estimate, but I know one thing: I don’t want to be just a bystander to the slide into fascist dictatorship, if that’s where we’re headed.

While freedom of speech survives we should make the best of it, as in blogs like this.  But almost all the tools are in place for government agents to persecute people for their expressed opinions.  For example, the NSA is developing a capability to intercept and decrypt almost any sort of electronic communication such as emails, phone calls or Google searches. They may well be trolling the entire internet for posts like this.

What are your thoughts?  How are you pushing back?

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9 thoughts on “Pushing Back Against the State

  1. I agree that government intrusion is going too deep into an intrusion on our privacy right and that we should resist allowing government power to grow beyond what is reasonable and necessary. If you want to address things like the census, the time to do it now, not every ten years when it comes to pass having no prior civil discourse.

    I think people could organize and push their legislators, particularly their U.S. Representatives, who are elected every two years to prescribe a census limited to only that which is defined by the Constitution. To be effective, one would have to organize large numbers of people, but considering the mood of the nation these days; that should not be difficult to do.

  2. […] I would be grateful to anybody who can point me to some of the licensing restrictions and government regulations of the trucking industry here in the United States.  I know that in California you have to take a special examination to get a special license to operate a truck.  Then again, you also have to get a special license to operate any kind of vehicle in the US… […]

  3. I don’t vote. I think voting just perpetuates the problems of our society. California is a case study of what happens when you create a system that allows people to decide on fiscal and civil matters without being able to look at the costs and benefits that will affect such decisions.

    Rick’s tactic isn’t necessarily a bad one, either. Especially if individual liberty becomes popular again. We can’t count on older folks, though, because they are the ones who implemented the current policies we have (social security, Medicare, etc.) and fully expect to get their money’s worth when it comes time to retire. These guys vote more than any other demographic, and they are becoming the largest demographic as well.

    And most people in college don’t want freedom either.

    I think writing and getting the idea of liberty out into the general public sphere to compete with ideas of force and fraud is the best way to go about resisting the state, though. Always has been, always will be.

    The worst possible thing to do, which I have seen many talented and creative people do, is simply withdraw from society and public discourse.

    • You’re probably right about the majority of old folks. But a substantial number of us never supported the current policies and recognize Social Security, for example, as a Ponzi scheme. I collect SS because I do not feel an obligation to turn it down, but I am under no illusion that it is an entitlement or that my SS taxes have been put aside for me. I vote because voting against taxes is a way of venting — a lame reason to be sure.

    • Good points. I forget that Social Security and the like had to go through tough political battles before they were implemented, so perhaps voting is a good way of expressing one’s opinion through elections and of resisting the encroachments of the state.

      I confess that I recently registered to vote on campus as a Republican so that I can vote for Ron Paul in the upcoming primaries, too!

    • “I think writing and getting the idea of liberty out into the general public sphere to compete with ideas of force and fraud is the best way to go about resisting the state, though. Always has been, always will be.”

      This is so true, and well said, Brandon. I think liberty is naturally identified with, and people who are reminded that it is primary and fundamental, will naturally identify, and reject, its encroachments.

  4. To anyone who hasn’t, I strongly recommend the Wired article on the new NSA data center referenced in this post. An astounding and disturbing article…

  5. No one has ever explained to me why the government exists.

    They just seem to get us into wars and trouble. I am not the smartest person alive, but if I was so stupid that I thought “lying for peace” was sound foreign policy; I would be as stupid as the governments of the world.

    Lying is diplomatic? Insults are polite? We lie for the sake of cordiality / decency / etiquette? The government thinks “lying to avoid conflict is intelligent”? I met a retarded carnie once that was brighter.

    I know you are all afraid of other humans but I have met them. They think you hate them. You think they hate you. It’s all a big misunderstanding. Governments; yes. Who knew?

    No one has ever explained to me why the government exists. We’d be better off being run by corporations. Well I figure we’d be more or less the same; but with less war. War is only ever good for governments.

Please keep it civil (unless it relates to Jacques)

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