Column by Paul Hein.

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I haven’t taken a poll, but if I did, I’m certain I’d find that most Americans would claim that they were free. Many would claim that they were living in the “freest” country in the world. To some extent, they’d be right.

For example: I can take a walk after lunch, or a nap, if I prefer. I can go shopping when I please, where I please, and buy whatever I want. I can go to Church, or not. I can eat out, or cook at home. I can marry, or remain single. Talk about free!!!

When you look a little below the surface, however, the picture becomes less rosy. I live in a suburban community in St. Louis County called Ballwin. The rulers of Ballwin (they are called aldermen) assume that they have authority over me and my property, and the right to punish me for disobedience. A couple of years ago, the lawn service was late in cutting the grass, and the rulers sent me a terse note that I had ten days to cut the grass, or they would do it for me, charging $75. (Twice what the lawn service charges!)

Ballwin is part of St. Louis County, and the rulers of the county also assume jurisdiction over me and mine, and have no reluctance in writing rules for me to obey. St. Louis County, in turn, is part of Missouri, and the rulers in Jefferson City turn out laws with amazing speed, and would be flabbergasted if asked why I should pay any attention to them. “Why, it’s the LAW!!!” they would probably exclaim, if asked. By this process of churning out their opinions, which, written down formally, are called “laws,” they somehow gain dominion over me. (Don’t ask how that happens, just do as you’re told.)

And ultimately, Missouri is one of the States, and the federal rulers, though unaware of my existence, do not hesitate for a millisecond in prescribing what they insist is proper behavior for me, or proscribing what they think isn’t. Like their counterparts at the local levels, they regard as profoundly proper and natural that by expressing their wishes in writing, I become subject to them. Once I realized this, the “freedoms” I described above took on a different aspect.

For instance, I am, as I said, free to eat out if I wish. However, my meal will be taxed if I do. If I eat at home, the gas for the stove will be taxed, and the wine I take with my meal will be taxed also, as well as the food. I can go shopping when I wish, but the car that takes me to the mall must be licensed (for a fee), as must I (another fee) and the yearly tribute—a personal property tax—must be paid for the car if I am to continue operating it. I can marry (need a license—another fee). Well, at least I can take a nap without paying a tax, although the bed was taxed, and the linens.

If you have the temerity to complain about conditions in America, someone is likely to tell you, “If you don’t like it here, go somewhere else.” I’ve never seriously considered doing that, but if I did, what would be the result? As soon as I stepped out of Ballwin, the rulers of the adjacent community would regard me as fair prey. If I left Missouri, the rulers in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, etc., would exert their authority over me as soon as I crossed the line. And if I left the United States, some foreigners would subjugate me upon my arrival.

So here’s the question which comes to mind: Where on the face of the earth can I go where I, Me, Myself, have jurisdiction over me? You’ve probably heard the expression “A man’s home is his castle.” Well, only so long as he pays the annual tribute to the rulers who, in fact, are the real ultimate owners of the “castle.” How about the lovely phrase “sovereign citizen”? That’s oxymoronic, because if you are a citizen, the rulers of the place granting you “citizenship” are sovereign; you are a subject. A young person, finishing his education, may be advised to go into a line of work where he can be “his own boss.” Except that’s not possible. Yes, you could become a musician, for example, and travel the world, performing when and where you want, for fees you set. Ah, but if you travel, you’ll need a passport from the rulers, and perhaps a visa from the foreign rulers. And you won’t be allowed to keep all of what you earn, wherever you earn it.

As long as you exist on the face of the earth, you’ll find yourself surrounded by strangers who claim that your life and property are, quite properly and inevitably, under their control. Refuse to accept that idea, and you might be judged a terrorist, or insane, and placed in an asylum. And there you’ll REALLY be controlled!! So much for “the land of the free!” There is no such place.

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 150


Thunderbolt's picture

Dr. Hein: I too have wondered the same thing. Where can one go? I have even considered seasteading or living on a sailboat. Maybe a blimp would work. Both would be very vulnerable to statist thugs, however.

Jim Davies's picture

You nailed it, Paul. With a deal of trouble it's possible to reduce the impact of government, but ultimately the only way one can exercise one's inherent sovereignty is to abolish it. And in my opinion, America is a pretty good place to start doing that.
One way, meanwhile, to reduce its impact is that of the Perpetual Tourist (PT also stands for Previous Taxpayer and other good things.)
The idea is to establish a domicile for tax purposes in a country where income tax is low or zero, while doing business in another where corporate taxes are low or zero, and living most of the year in a third where the climate is favorable. Or something like that. Wiki has more.

rita's picture

Actually, you can't buy whatever you want, either.

Paul's picture

We aren't perfectly free. We aren't perfectly slave either.

"As soon as I stepped out of Ballwin, the rulers of the adjacent community would regard me as fair prey."

Well, there still exist variations worth exploration. Next time you go house-hunting, restrict yourself to communities that have a few dead cars in the street. I'm serious! You won't find near as much liberty in towns infested with do-gooders and "improvers". Just the way it is; no point in complaining about it.

Keep in mind a free society WILL STILL HAVE SUCH COMMUNITIES. You need to live where you fit in. Try Montana or Wyoming; people are quite a bit more laid-back there, although Jackson and Sheridan (in Wyoming) still have too many "improvers".

Samarami's picture

You can run, but you can't hide.

I am a sovereign state. I have borders across which you must not step without my say-so. Well, I wish you wouldn't. But I'm old and feeble and may not be able to stop you. So please don't.

I regard psychopaths organized into that mindless abstraction called "the state" in the same manner that I treat venomous snakes and other dangerous critters. They should be avoided whenever and wherever possible. The cost and discomfort of knee-high boots is like a tax for going to the woods and along the river. I could go barefoot or with sneakers, but snakes observe no property rights, nor do they concern themselves with my convenience or pleasure.

Resent it I might, but wear 'em I do.

And, considering the bright side, snakes feed on and help control rodents, mosquitoes, and other vermin.

So if you're rat and mosquito free, thank a rattler.