[ExI] tyranny by 16th amendment

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Fri May 24 05:32:46 UTC 2013

On Friday, May 24, 2013 12:39 AM spike <spike at rainier66.com> wrote:
> Ja, thanks Gordon.  I and perhaps plenty of other Americans are

I would think this applies outside of US-Americans.

> looking at these kinds of questions in a different light with the
> revelations by the top IRS officials this week.

As I've pointed out in another post, all of this has happened before: the IRS targetting groups for seemingly political reasons. That said, it's good that some people are waking up to this. It's a sad thing, though, that many of these are partisans who merely see this as reflecting the current ruler and not any of his predecessors. Nor that do many of them -- probably most of them -- see a problem with the overall system, but just merely who's filling the seats of power. In other words, they have little problem with there being such power in the first place...

> Is it not extraordinary that the former director of the IRS, under
> whose leadership the agency targeted the Tea Party and conservative
> groups, testified that she had done nothing wrong, nothing illegal,
> then invoked the fifth amendment.

No, it's not. Government bureaucrats, both in the IRS and in general (and around the world and throughout history), see themselves as basically good people doing their jobs and they rarely are given to admitting an abuse of power is just that. Why is this extraordinary? This should come as no surprise. The shocking thing is when someone actually owns up to wrongdoing. (And when that happens I bet it's often more just trying to avoid worse consequences rather than from any true remorse.*)

> Is not that self-contradictory?  If so, can we not assume the IRS,
> which has arbitrary and unchecked powers under the 16th amendment,
> is itself simultaneously criminal and is declaring itself above the law?

The IRS, like most tax bureaucracies (in the US and the rest of the world) has extensive powers that shield it from oversight and limits. (You generally get tried, too, in IRS courts! So much for separation of powers!) This is nothing new. The strange thing to me is that when people see this that they believe so radical change has happened -- that a few years ago the whole setup was different and we lived in Camelot or some strange utopia where government bureaucrats had haloes over their head and never ever did anything wrong. It's a mythical view too many people have, IMO. This is like how many schoolmates of mine were taught that the lawmakers debate like they were in Plato's Academy, aiming at the Good and nothing but that. It's a happy fantasy, along with that of Santa Claus. :)

The truth is government is and always has been a stationary bandit. Yeah, there are rules it draws up and it doesn't go too far in abuse. After all, a stationary bandit has to sheer not skin the sheep -- it operates by having them there for another day. But all of this is based on abuse, on criminality, on being a bandit. The pretense is that a piece of paper and some rules matter. If you want a good metaphor for it, think of the Mafia. Yeah, they have rules, but who enforces and interprets those rules? The mafia itself -- not the people it extorts or does business with. Governments everywhere are like that. (That doesn't mean there's no variation. I'd prefer a modern Western liberal democracy over the governments of Saudi Arabia or North Korea. But this is like arguing that you'd rather be savagely beaten rather than killed.)

 See my SF short story "Residue":
http://www.amazon.com/Residue-ebook/dp/B00BS3T0RM/ -- US
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BS3T0RM -- UK
http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00BS3T0RM -- Canada

* George H. Smith related the following anecdote, which is merely an example of bureaucratic stupidity:

"By all accounts H.T. Buckle was an entertaining conversationalist. One of his favorite stories was about a trip to Italy that involved passing through Austria. At the Austrian border Buckle’s baggage was searched by a customs officer. A fanatical bibliophile who eventually amassed 20,000 volumes in his personal library, Buckle always carried books on his many travels, and in this instance he had a copy of the seminal work by Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. After the customs officer said that he was under orders to confiscate any book with revolutionary tendencies, Buckle explained that this book was about the revolutions of planets. The customs officer replied that it didn’t matter where the revolutions took place; all revolutionary books were banned in Austria. Thus did Buckle forfeit his copy of Copernicus to bureaucratic stupidity."
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