"Government means always coercion and compulsion and is by necessity the opposite of liberty." ~ Ludwig von Mises
Statuses: Who Assigns Them?
Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
We all acquire numerous statuses as we move through life. Some of them are natural, like the status of white male, or mother. They simply reflect who we are by our nature; they are built-ins, so to speak.
Others are the result of choices. I may acquire the status of pilot, for example, or Kiwanian. These statuses are chosen, and can be abandoned, renounced, or ignored with no untoward consequences. If I were to convert from Christianity to atheism, and then renounce that status, even vilifying it, I would not fear fine, arrest, or any other punishment except, perhaps, the disdain and contempt of my erstwhile peers.
Probably our most interesting statuses, and certainly the ones most fraught with significance, are those which are assigned to us, and which we, perhaps out of ignorance or apathy, accept. Some examples of these would be “citizen,” “taxpayer,” or even “employer.” A citizen, depending upon the legal dictionary used, is someone who swears loyalty to a nation, or who gives allegiance to a government. (A nation, or a government, is in reality, a group of people who differ from the rest of us by their belief that they can control our lives and property according to their will, which, written down, becomes law, and somehow binding upon us.) A taxpayer--according to the code itself--is anyone subject to the Internal Revenue Code--all those millions of words, and mind-boggling statutes and regulations. An employer is someone with a status assigned by the government, over and above that status assumed voluntarily by the individual. By virtue of the government-assigned status of employer, one becomes required to adhere to regulations promulgated by the rulers.
It is instructive to review what Thomas Jefferson said about government in his Declaration of Independence. Government derives its just powers, he said, from the consent of the governed. My state constitution, and probably that of your state, has a similar concept: that political power resides in the people, and is derived from them. A similar idea is expressed in the federal Constitution. The alternative to powers delegated to government by the people, or government operating with the consent of the governed, is slavery. To consent is to agree, and consent is not automatic, like breathing. If you consent to something, you could as easily have withheld your consent. Similarly, if you delegated your power--as the source of that power--to certain strangers, you could as easily have denied them that power.
And yet you find yourself with the status of citizen. Who bestowed that status upon you? Did you volunteer loyalty and allegiance to the various strangers in the town hall, the state house, or Washington D.C.? Maybe you did. Should you decide that you erred in doing so, could you retract your loyalty and allegiance? Could you notify those officious strangers that, although you intended to remain in his bountiful and beautiful land, you no longer owed them any loyalty or allegiance? Certainly, a free man could do so!
What if you asked the rulers how you acquired the status of employer, as they define it? You certainly didn’t choose it, and you don’t want it. Is there some objective proof that you are an employer, other than the assertion by the Rulers that you are? Can you renounce your federally-imposed employer status? Certainly a free man could do so!
Sooner or later you may wonder how it is that you’ve become a taxpayer; i.e., someone subject to the tax laws. Is it to your advantage to have that status? Can’t you notify the authorities that you no longer wish to be a taxpayer, having never given your consent to that condition, nor having delegated to them the power to claim your property as their own? Certainly a free man could do so! After all, doesn’t the government exist to protect your rights? You have the right to your own property, don’t you?
Ah, but the rulers have answers to your queries. They will point out that when you apply for a passport as a U.S. citizen, or enter the voting booth, you are identifying yourself as a citizen. Complete the forms regularly required of an employer, withholding pay from workers, and forwarding it to the rulers, and you have assumed the status of employer. And when completing the forms sent to “Dear taxpayer” containing data required from all taxpayers, your denial of taxpayer status rings hollow.
The plantation slaves of 200 years ago would have laughed at the idea that they had consented to their condition. So would their masters, who had bought and paid for them. No elaborate documents with florid language, expressing soothing platitudes, would have changed anything. Any slave attempting to abandon his slave status would have been punished, perhaps severely.
But today—in the land of the free--things are different! The offensive term “slave” has been replaced with much gentler terms, and the citizens, employers, taxpayers, etc., do, after a fashion, give their consent, and delegate their powers to those who oppress them, even if they do so in ignorance, or fear of their public servants. I’m sure the overseers didn’t mind how much the slaves grumbled, so long as they harvested that cotton! And the mugger will let you complain to your heart's content, so long as you hand over your wallet and watch. What he won’t do is insult your intelligence by declaring that you are obligated to give him what he wants pursuant to rules formally debated and published by the Muggers Association.
No, in this land of the free, you are free to reject any associations not to your liking. Right?