Taxation by Ticket
by Jim Davies, 12/17/2011
On December 12th there was a striking article on LewRockwell.com about a new way governments are making up their tax "shortfall" in this Great Recession: they are having their policemen issue more traffic tickets, after grotesquely increasing the sizes of fines. John Brennan wrote of how in California, cops are organizing "checkpoints" (in total disregard of Amendment Four) and examining all vehicles caught in their dragnet for any infraction of the zillions of rules and, should a malfunctioning tail light be discovered, handing out a fine for hundreds of dollars. John reckoned that in a single hour that he observed events in one traffic court, the State sucked $50,000 out of motorists' pockets.
This raises again the question of who should own and operate highways.
In Roads to Serfdom I named seven good reasons why their ownership should be (and will be, in the coming free society) transferred to profit seeking business companies, and in The Recovery of Stolen Roads I also showed how they were never truly owned by governments, and how in a local, urban environment they would initially at least be taken over by adjacent property owners. John Brennan has added an eighth and powerful reason to transfer those titles.
Scrutinizing captive vehicles at a checkpoint - or even at traffic lights! - sure beats chasing down armed criminals, and yields the State revenue instead of consuming its resources. If and when this sneaky technique spreads East, it will become clear even to the dullest American that the common police slogan "To Protect and to Serve" refers only to the employing government, not to the people paying to be served. A simple alternative way to restore ill-balanced government budgets would be to fire all or most of its police - since they are no longer detecting criminals, they are obviously surplus to requirements. But guess what: they will never think of that.
The trick is the more terrible because it can be applied not just to traffic infractions, but to all manner of others. It's often and correctly noted that there are far more laws on the books than anyone can even read in a lifetime, never mind obey, so any government body strapped for cash can potentially pick any subset of them and direct its armed and uniformed thugs to go out and enforce a few and bring back a sackful of cash. We are lucky that so far, they have done so little! That impenetrable forest of legislation has been tolerable only because most of the enforcers, even, don't know their way around it.
Urgently needed is a strategy for beating this nasty technique, while awaiting the departure of all government - and I think we can do so. First, notice what may arise spontaneously: Wiki tells the story of how in 1997 Carl Drega shot dead four people and injured three others, before himself being killed, because two NH state cops began maliciously to ticket him for rust holes in his pickup. That was of course overkill, literally, but if it should be provoked again it will likely dampen the enthusiasm of law enforcers for this kind of assignment. Other Carl Dregas may be provoked to appear, if tax ticketing intensifies - but it may not be widespread. Drega was harassed many times by government, in many ways over many years; he just happened to snap when Troopers Philips and Lord wrote their final ticket. Tax ticketing will cause outrage, but it's rather unlikely to hit any one person more than once.
More likely is that word will spread about how to fight the outrage in court. That will make it very time consuming for the thieves. It also uses up the victim's time - but if several hundred dollars are at stake, it may be worth it. I've noticed myself that proceedings begin by having each victim meet the prosecutor and show his excuse; if he agrees to plead guilty there and then, the fine is reduced and the victim is on his way - and the formal, time-consuming court hearing does not take place. But if victims decline the offer and insist on cross examining witnesses, the trick will implode, for the government won't have enough hours in the day. So it will if the awesome process developed by Marc Stevens for such cases is put to good use; do contact him if you are victimized.
My own much more limited experience of battling government in its own courts leads to a few suggestions here; some of them worked for me but they come with no guarantees. The main thing is to try something; it will probably not produce an acquittal but it will sure monkeywrench their system, quite legally, and that is what counts. We can use our single advantage against government: numbers.
But the proper fix for this outrage is that roads be privately owned. Owners will then have a contract with users as customers, so will be eager to please them. The notion that a vendor would punish and harass his customers by sending out armed agents to commit highway robbery can not be imagined. That will be another rich dividend of freedom.