A tale of two countries

In “the land of the free, home of the brave,” if the government thinks you have too much cash on hand for an ordinary serf citizen, it reserves the right to relieve you of it:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

I’ve written before about these types of “civil forfeiture” laws, and how they are an example of the way our militarized social policy (i.e. the ‘war on drugs’) has eroded basic freedoms.  Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?  It’s come to this: if a bureaucrat deems your financial transactions to be unusual, they can just take your money.  This is freedom?  Other nations have certainly noticed this and raised an eyebrow.  Why haven’t we?

Between forfeiture and the rampant abuse of eminent domain, no American should feel secure that their own government won’t simply try arbitrarily to take away years of work and savings.  This nation simply is not as free as it thinks it is.  The irony is that other nations we’ve been conditioned over generations to believe are hopelessly less free than us may, in fact, now be doing better on this score:

the Vietnamese view of capitalism is based on their experience, while the American view, sadly, may be based on our own. The Vietnamese have their recent experience with the lies and deprivation that always accompany communism to contrast with the growth and opportunity that a newly opened free market has provided. Many Americans, on the other hand, look at our free market and see that it’s not all that free sometimes, and that a lot of what passes for capitalism is really what Jason Mattera calls Crapitalism, a politicized crony-capitalism in which insider connections and government subsidies and compulsion play a bigger role than they should.

Vietnam has a flat tax that makes life easy for small businesses; America has a convoluted code that requires professional help to understand — and that is administered by a politicized IRS that people don’t trust anymore. The Vietnamese see small businesses as essential to the country’s future; the American government is made up of politicians who meet objections to their policies by saying things like “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America.”

But the Vietnamese advantage may boil down to this: Free markets are new there, whereas America has had them for a long time. Scientist Thomas Ray once said that every successful system accumulates parasites, and the free market in America has been successful for a very long time. Established businesses get tied down with regulations that keep out new innovations — like Michigan’s GM-backed anti-Tesla law that bars carmakers from selling directly to the public — while politicians line up to line their pockets with taxes and fees and campaign contributions.

Don’t believe the rhetoric and the rah-rah that ‘Merica is the world’s greatest bastion of freedom, capitalism and self-governance.  Instead, take a good look at what’s going on around you — even if it’s not happening to you… yet… — and ask some hard questions about how we got here.  Who benefits from the way things are run now… from “Crapitalism?”  Why are Americans tolerating the level of lawlessness we currently do?

I’m not quite to the point of believing elections no longer matter here (though I’m getting there rapidly), so I’ll close with this: once you’ve asked the questions above, act accordingly next week.



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