Pushing Back Against the State

A friend recently brought my attention to the Orwellian American Community Survey (ACS), 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?