I read an unfortunate novel this week, “Security Breach” by Humphrey Hawksley. It’s a waste of time, partly because it could have been much better. One of Hawksley’s blunders is his desire to be the next Orwell, by imagining a near-universal police state. Simply put, he does not sell the idea well. Hawksley plays on media-driven fears, and comes off as a neo-Luddite instead of a thoughtful critic of modern technology. But the book did get me pondering about the tipping point of the police state.
Law is necessary, but when the power to make and enforce laws is abused law degrades to oppression. This can be understood on a linear scale:
Without law at all chaos reigns, there is no justice or sense of order, and people will do little to risk their safety or possessions. Law is demanded by the people, to protect their persons and property.
At a certain point, sufficient law and its enforcement creates conditions where the public experiences security and freedom in a balance which allows individual expression and industry, but also protects both individual rights and the general welfare.
However, as time progresses political agents become inclined to act in the nominal public interest, and impose burdens on the public in the feigned interest of the public welfare. Laws which are not reasonable, which are too numerous or intrusive, or which benefit a few at the cost of the many, represent oppression and represent the road to the police state.
Taxes, for example. If you own land, you know that you will never be done paying for it, because the government has arranged for perpetual property tax. If you make money, it will be taxed as income or as an investment, and if you spend it it will be taxed again as sales tax, plus luxury tax if you dare to spend it on something the government considers non-essential. Your gasoline is taxed, so are your utilities, so even necessities lead to you paying more tax. Need I continue? Anyone who works or is successful, gets taxed in virtually every way possible.
It’s not just the rate either, but the infinite number of ways the government lies about what it’s doing. Taxes are hidden and disguised as ‘fees’, ‘tariffs’, ‘funds’, and so on, in a never ending con game that fools no one but the politicians.
No one with an IQ above 50 or a birth date in the 20th century seriously considers themselves to be under-taxed.
Many people accept their condition, either as a fact of life or a condition beyond their control to change. That’s not the same as thinking it just or a true representation of the people’s will, as our country’s Founding Fathers intended.
Why does excessive taxation represent a police state? Enforcement is universal, for one thing, and opposition is either mocked, suppressed, or both. The IRS may be fair or not, but they do not have to follow the normal court procedures required; they have their own courtrooms and judges, in fact. Where money is concerned, the one thing you may be sure of is that if you have any, the government will chase you down to get it.
Moving back to the overview though, the excess of law is also apparent in just how easy it is to get into legal trouble. You can be charged for not wearing a seat belt, even though you put no one else at risk. You can be fined for failing to sign your tax return in ink. You can be fired for a bad credit report, even if the report is in error. Government now instructs you on how you should eat, drive, exercise, sleep, enjoy yourself on vacation, and on what you should spend your discretionary income. The government also can now abrogate your property rights, devalue your investments, and limit your access to your own bank accounts, all in the name of ‘stimulus’ – how’s that for “hope and change”?
Laws are necessary to protect the public from violence, but excessive control by government is intolerable, historically so. Strange as it may sound, President Obama seems to be a man who knows many details of the law, yet he fails to understand its context and limit.