Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

More and More of What We Do Depends on Government Permission

Posted by M. C. on July 24, 2018

What government is all about. Being in control of your life.

Take a right or freedom away, make you pass test, pay a “fee” (tax), and maybe you get what was already yours back.

In Erie PA don’t think about setting tables and chairs on the sidewalk outside your business without approval and paying for a permit. Your kid can’t sell lemonade in the front yard, a restaurant can’t BBQ ribs on an outside grill. Against the rules comrade. There is great grilled rib place just over the Ohio border. Business there is good.

Do you have permit for that? If you want to keep that permit, you’d better do as you’re told.

Increasingly, that’s the theme of modern America. More and more of what we do is dependent on permission from the government. That permission, unsurprisingly, is contingent on keeping government officials happy. Rub those officials the wrong way and they’ll strip you of permission to travel the roads, leave the country, or even make a living.

That’s not a recipe for a free country.

In February of this year, the IRS began sending the U.S. State Department lists of Americans who have a seriously delinquent tax debt, so that these individuals can be denied the right to travel overseas.

“[T]his only applies to a seriously delinquent tax debt,” cautions tax attorney Robert W. Wood, “more than $50,000. Even so, that $50,000 includes penalties and interest. A $20,000 tax debt can grow to $50,000 including penalties and interest.”

Passport revocation isn’t contingent on criminal conviction, or suspicion of flight. Your travel documents can be yanked just for the outstanding debt—even if you’re already outside the country.

“If you’re already overseas, the State Department may, but is not required to, provide a passport permitting your return home,” writes former federal prosecutor Justin Gelfand. “And a 1952 statute makes it a crime for a U.S. citizen to enter or exit the country without a valid passport.”

That law requiring a passport to cross the border in either direction, combined with the threat to strip passports from alleged tax debtors, effectively makes the country one big debtors’ prison.

What connection is there between taxes and the right to travel? None. Members of Congress and other government officials just thought they could coerce more people into meeting IRS demands if they made the right to travel (not so much a “right” any more) dependent on keeping the taxman happy…

Too many activities—a growing number—have quietly transformed from rights that we quietly exercise at will into privileges requiring state approval.

“As a general rule, until 1941, U.S. citizens were not required to have a passport for travel abroad,” the National Archives report.

On a similar note, only about 5 percent of American workers needed licenses to do their jobs in the 1950s.

And, “In 1930, only 24 states required a license to drive a car and just 15 states had mandatory driver’s exams. South Dakota was the last state to begin issuing licenses (without exams), in 1954,” the History Channel tells us.

Those bureaucratic developments, all justified as improvements in safety and national security, put people increasingly under the thumbs of government officials and make us incredibly vulnerable to pressures and penalties that are entirely unrelated to our supposed transgressions. Get on the wrong side of a vindictive official or a mindless bureaucracy, and you’re effectively subject to house arrest and an economic knee-capping.

Such government control over vast areas of our lives makes it very difficult to pretend that we’re free. Free people don’t fret that they may lose government permission to work and travel.

Be seeing you

prison bars


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