What happens when everyone hates the state

October 18th, 2008

Lew Rockwell has posted a simply wonderful article about ‘Joe the plumber’:

Joe the Outlaw

This whole campaign has been dreadfully boring, with gaffe-avoidance techniques squelching all spontaneity, and it doesn’t help that the ideological parameters of the election have been so narrowly drawn as to make any thinking person want to shut up both the candidates and the media that cover them so lovingly.

Still, one interesting point has emerged: the archetype chosen to represent mainstream America turns out to be a thorough-going outlaw in the best sense of that term. In this, he is a symbol of the age. We can look forward to the creation and emergence of ever more people like this in the coming years, as the state tightens its grip over every aspect of American life. We will all soon be outlaws.

The whole Joe the Plumber saga began when Joe Wurzelbacher from Toledo, Ohio, confronted Barack Obama about the candidate’s tax plans. He wanted to know if Obama would raise his taxes. In particular, he was planning to buy a company with a revenue of $250,000 per year. “Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?”

Of course the Republicans seized on this and exploited it. McCain keeps bringing him up in speeches. Republicans like to talk about taxes. They always seem to corner the budget-balancing, wealth-distributing Democrats with this topic, even though it is largely a distraction in an age of fiat money when the government can print all the revenue it needs. Still, the GOP likes the symbolism, so Joe had his 15 minutes of fame as a hero of the Right.

But the New York Times did some digging and discovered – horror – that Joe is doing plumbing without a proper business license. How dare he call himself a plumber! A license is required by Toledo, not just one license for a partnership but for everyone who is called a plumber. Joe has not taken the training courses, is not a member of the union, and cannot legally call himself a plumber.

The press reports on this were explosive, with reporters speaking as if they had caught this guy red-handed and completely discredited him. But what about the complete absurdity of the idea that you have to have a license in order to have the right to fix someone else’s sink? This is Soviet like, but deeply entrenched in American professional life.

The idea of licensing is that it assures quality standards. But this is just a cover used by guilds since the Middle Ages. The real goal of licensing is to create a professional cartel. Fewer providers means higher wages for those with licenses. It is all about boosting income by restricting competition. This is of course a violation of human rights because it impinges on the fundamental freedom of association.

In a market setting, there are plenty of quality controls through professional organizations. Consumers are free to use them or not. Many private producers attempt to create cartels through this means, but it is rarely successful. There are always producers who break with the guild in order to charge lower prices for their services. This is why they often seek state regulations, such as the requirement that all plumbers have a license.

By the way, this is true of all professions, including lawyering and doctoring. There was a time when entry into these fields was governed by the free market, and the system worked fine (contrary to legend). But the big players in these industries sought and obtained state privileges to officially license service providers. It was an income-boosting tactic and it worked.

By practicing plumbing without a license, Joe is bucking the system in a truly heroic way. He shouldn’t be condemned for this. He should be celebrated as a freedom fighter. He has a lot more to complain about than just taxes. It is the state itself in all its incarnations that is his true enemy. He ought to demanding answers from the politicians about their regulatory schemes to further restrict competition in a wide range of areas (banking for example!).

Most ridiculous is the idea that he shouldn’t be called a plumber because he doesn’t have a license. Here we see how licensing attacks even the use of our language. If he is doing plumbing, he is a plumber. Period.

And yet taxes are also close to Joe’s heart because it also turns out that he is delinquent on his property taxes, which are similarly too high and similarly unjust. The Ohio Department of Taxation placed a lien against him because $1,183 in personal property taxes had not been paid. In what sense can you say that you really own your home if the state can take it away if you don’t pay what the state says you ought to be pay? This is an attack on private property in the most fundamental sense.

So it turns out that we truly do have an American archetype in Joe Wurzelbacher. He is an outlaw in the same sense that our founders were outlaws. He lives outside the regulations of the state because these regulations attack his freedom and property. It was to end systems such as this that the American revolution came to be. And yet we find ourselves back in exactly the same system, and one incredibly worse in every way.

It is going to take something different from the election of the Republican to beat back the oppressions that vex his life. It is not complicated. It is a right belonging to all people that they can do what they want and keep what they own provided they do not impinge on anyone else’s right to do the same. The state is nothing but an organized attempt to deny this right. Joe has an enemy, but it goes way beyond Obama.



Needless to say, I agree 100% with all of this.

Which brings me to the title of this post.

What does it look like in a country where everyone hates the state?

It looks like Spain.

I was told a story two days ago about buying property in Spain by a builder. It went like this.

He was buying a house. Everything in Spain has to be Notarized meaning essentially that the state is a third party in all important transactions.

When it came to the day of the sale, the builders lawyers, the sellers lawyers, the builder and the seller were all sat in a lawyer’s office in Seville. The contracts were laid out. The Notary came in, and read the details of the contract, including the price to be paid, signed and stamped it and then left the room. What happened next is the extraordinary part.

Apparently in Spain, when people sell property, the price quoted is always significantly lower than the real price that is to be paid. The difference is made up by a cash payment on the day of the hand-over.

Everyone knows about this illegal activity.

The lawyers know about it.
The banks know about it.
The Notaries know about it.

EVERYONE in Spain knows about it, EVERYONE does it and no one bats an eyelid because they are ALL, UNANIMOUSLY AGAINST THE STATE with an equal and total hatred.

In essence, the state in Spain is partially ignored by the entire population, who seem to have reached a bizarre equilibrium where they all offset the insane taxes and duties imposed by the state by always doing a proportion of business transactions in cash. That every legal and banking professional knows about it and participates in openly it shows that civil society in Spain is a façade.

You would think that digital money would sound the death knell for this parallel economy, but you would be wrong. Because the entire population is doing this, the lawyers, judges, police, bankers, accountants…EVERYONE, no matter what system of control the state tries to put in, no one will be there to enforce it.

The Spanish it would appear (from this story in any case) to have partially woken up from the hypnotic state many people are under, where they falsely believe that the state is all powerful. As I have said many times on BLOGDIAL, all it takes is everyone to simply not obey for the state to completely lose power. And for all you terrified children out there, the state losing power does not mean the collapse of everything and total disorder; it simply means that they are out of your life, and everything gets done without without them.

The Italians are well on their way to this situation if we take the stories of unregulated restaurants running in private houses; opening and running a restaurant is so fraught with difficulties, taxes, regulations, duties, health and safety rules, inspections and all manner of nonsense that only an insane person would comply with any of it. Some people it seems, comply with none of it, and run restaurants from their own homes where you get everything that a restaurant gives you, but inside someone’s house. They pay nothing, are inspected by no one, make good money, mind their business…

and the sky does not fall down.

If the state will not back down, then it will end up being ignored and made irrelevant as people simply wake up and refuse to be exploited.

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