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Tax Protests

2000-07-02 17:38:48+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

I've got a friend who's finding the whole "sovereign citizen" pitch appealing. And I have to admit I haven't heard this person get specific about things that might actually land 'em in jail, but the whole thing feels like watching someone hang out with those kids who smoke in front of the liquor store; it's not like I can put my finger on what's gonna go wrong, but... Since I haven't heard the full pitch I've looked around a bit and found sites like the World Government Web which has a FAQ that recommends actions that look a bit like standing on a hill with an upraised umbrella during an electrical storm, which, of course, led me to the U.S. Constitution, the tax protester hall of fame, and useful cases for fighting sovereign defendant cases.

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:09+00 by: Larry Burton

After looking over the FAQ on the World Government Web[Wiki] I really can't see any compelling reason to become an active sovereign citizen. It's just more of the same old thing with just another group of people vying for some bit of power in an organization. It seems like someone taking your "Society of Indepedant People" seriously. Screw 'em. If I'm going to be a sovereign I throw in with the anarchist rather than throw away my sovereignty with some self-styled World Government.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:09+00 by: sethg

These "sovereign citizen" tax protestors are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, they declare themselves outside the jurisdiction of Federal law (and sometimes, as in the right-to-travel cases, certain state laws). On the other hand, when they're hauled into court, they defend themselves with bizarre and strained readings of Federal statutes, the Constitution, English common law, and even the Uniform Commercial Code -- and often get slapped with sanctions for wasting the court's time with nonsense. They seem to believe that some[Wiki] of the laws on the statute books ("Good Laws") grant them immutable rights, as if they were given by God on Sinai, and other[Wiki] laws ("Bad Laws") are tools of a great government conspiracy to oppress them -- and if they're ever prosecuted for violating the Bad Laws, they can just recite the Good Laws in front of a judge, and be set free. The moralistic tone of their presentations, and the tissue-thin quality of their arguments, make these "sovereign citizen" essays read like a parody of an ACLU brief. I suspect that fetishizing The Law[Wiki] is a particularly American vice. We have a relatively static Constitution, and court decisions that strike down laws on constitutional grounds show up frequently in the news. Also, the US is a predominantly Protestant country: the Protestant religious tradition emphasizes that an individual Christian, with no special training or guidance, can determine what God wants by reading the plain text of the Bible. That maps nicely onto the "sovereign citizens'" belief that they can read the Constitution and UCC (or out-of-context quotations from them) and craft an ironclad legal defense. What kinds of wacky legal ideas run wild in other countries?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:09+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think that other countries don't have as many wacky legal ideas because many other countries don't really have legal systems. A friend just got back from Italy where she had an eye-opening experience, an U.S. student who knew a lot about the Coliseum in Rome started talking with her, others started listing, until there was quite a crowd. The police came by and arrested said student for hosting a tour without a license, when the assembled crowds protested that they were just hanging out and talking with this person the police said, in essence: "Silly Americans. This is Italy. I don't have to have a reason to arrest you." Off the top of my head I can't name another country that has the equivalent of our first amendment. Perhaps Costa Rica, but not most of the usual suspects, Canada strongly controls speech, as do most European countries. England probably has its share of legal quibblers, but I think that's 'cause they've had a stable government for so very long, people know that if they poke a bit they're not going to get disappeared.