The Parable of the Taxman
September 28, 2009
This is a story of why the world is as it is, the story of a great land and the time long ago when it was free and green and happy. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a state that reminds me an awful lot of a certain place I have grown rather fond of. People lived there who were much like my neighbors. And, lo, others came to live there, much as the flatlanders we get in these parts, moving in and trying to ruin the place. I guess some problems are universal.
So anyway, in this wondrous place that couldn't possibly be like anyplace I've ever lived (just an amazing simulation), some damn flatlander got the idea they could tax us... er, I mean them... on their property. No idea what moment of weakness or insanity resulted in that being legal, it seems rather out of character. Freedom loving people like those in our far-distant Free State analog don't let the rat bastards tax them on much of anything else. My own theory is people went along with it 'cuz it was for the schools, I dunno. But anyways, they have to have some idea what a property is worth, so they send around an assessor every 10 years or so. Or at least so say the tales.
Now, they have many strange customs in that land, including such odd notions as "private property" and "trespassing". Supposedly, if your property is posted, by state law even one engaged in the business of the town can't step onto the property without permission of the owner. Perhaps not in so many words, but out in the back woods, what prudent minion really wants to take the chance that some extra-galactic hick might take their property rights seriously and decide to defend them? Oddly, people in that land like to put their houses far enough from the road and in such a position you often can't see a lot from the public right of way. Go figure - almost like they do it on purpose. So the assessor has to call ahead, and get permission to come onto their property.
Now, being an advanced society, they have call screening and know how to use it. Mysteriously enough, nobody ever answers that call. Which results in the amusing spectacle of the assessor driving around looking for citizens outside so he can ask permission. The law or something requires the vehicle to be clearly marked, for proper targeting one would suppose. It is said that if one happens to be outside, it is easy to hear an assessor coming, since every telephone for miles is ringing incessantly with warning calls of his movements.
In a truly remarkable coincidence, none of the inhabitants are ever outside when he drives up onto the road in front of a house, and politely honks his horn once or twice. For he knows if he honks too often, the cops miraculously show up and chew him out 'cuz of all the noise complaints the people who are never at home are calling in. (Poltergeists dialing phones, what WILL these storytellers think of next?) For, you see, in this strange and wonderful place, the police own land too, which makes them rather understanding of the notion of minding your own business.
Now, no tale tells of a tax assessor actually being physically harassed or assaulted. Many are the accounts of them quitting in frustration, or being driven mad by these strange events. Of course, some divergent texts argue that participating in harassing their neighbors and stealing their property shows distinct anti-social tendencies, if not madness in the first place. But, of course, people who believe such quaint notions died out long ago.
Others point out that, like New Hampshire, this ancient land has a LOT of empty woods, and a lot of heavy equipment for moving snow around. Breathlessly said to be quite good at digging big holes in a hurry and then filling them in. I suppose it is entirely possible some poor taxman just went missing and was never found, and nobody cared enough to look. At this distance, the tale might never have reached me, since of course in a fairy tale like this most of the small town papers where something like that is likely to happen wouldn't consider it news in the first place.
Legend says it has gotten so bad over the years that very few accounting firms will take assessment work. Something to do with all their other accounts taking their business elsewhere when they do. As the tale was related to me, only one or two firms do almost all the assessment work in the state. And pretty much nothing else, because of the disgust of the inhabitants for their unsavory associations.
Like all such tales, there is a dark side. Whispered tales of high assessments being levied on those who refuse to submit. There are epic accounts of appeals and lawsuits and much sound and fury signifying nothing. Few travelers tell of anyone submitting without making the expense far more than the gain.
I am told that the people living in the bigger cities, alas, are nowhere near so insistent on keeping the taxman in his properly ostracized place. All too believable a report, strange things happen to the minds of those who live packed together like so many sardines in a can. Likely 'cuz they don't have lots of lovely woods to retreat into or hide the evidence, or so I interpret the ancient myth. When I first read of this, I mused that this is yet another damn fine reason to avoid cities.
Another quaint custom referred to as "throw the bums out" is often invoked upon those officials who unwisely protesteth too much. And, I might add, sounds far more likely than the fond fable of doing a "Cask of Amontillado" routine with a backhoe, amusing as that image may be. In those parts, it is considered wise not to pay politicians well, so that politics are barely worth the hassle; treated more as an inconsequential bloodsport to be indulged in the long, cold winters than as anything of real import. One of those guilty little pleasures of life, I suppose.
This is said to ensure that any who get TOO pushy about infringing on their neighbor's liberties or trying to find novel ways to enrich themselves at the expense of others find that folks start taking it out on the business or real job they must have in order to afford playing civic leader in their spare time.
The moral of this little parable, kiddies, is that you CAN fight city hall. Without firing a shot, or even raising your voice, nor indeed ever saying a word. Brings to mind the old question, "what if they had a war and nobody showed up?" It is said the officials there have never quite figured out what to do about such wondrous events. They screech, wail, wear sackcloth, and tear intently upon their hair, then write earnest letters urging cooperation. Lo, but all versions of the story agree that if they get TOO loud, the inhabitants get ornery at the "town meeting", a fine custom that has been kept in that land since time immemorial.
It is one of my favorite stories, and every time I hear it
(or tell it), I reflect that it would be very nice to live
someplace like that. As well as, upon reflection, how wise
it would probably be to admit nothing if such a land
actually existed and you happened to live there.
And they all lived happily ever after in freedom...
Hunter's Fifty-Sixth Rule: "Unalienable Rights" are much like art -- hard to define, but you know 'em when you see 'em.
The Hunter is an expatriate Kansas farmboy who went east to find his fortune years ago. What he found instead was a pack of damn-fool statists. He's been trying to lose them ever since. He splits his time these days between writing, cutting wood, shooting, wondering whether there are any freedom-loving single women in the world, and trying to survive and make ends meet in the howling wilderness of New England. He can usually be found slouching about the Liberty Round Table and annoying the libertarians there with blunt talk and stubborn practicality.
A Knight of Non-Aggression is a person committed to fighting institutionalized aggression, who has taken the following oath:
"I swear, by my life and my love of It, to fight against all forms of tyranny. I recognize that the enabling idea that underlies and sustains tyranny is the idea that the socially organized and institutionalized initiation of the use of force against non-consenting and unwilling people can be justified, is desirable, and must be given sanction in order to avoid chaos. I further recognize that no lasting liberty can be achieved until the falsehood of this idea is widely known and pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor to exposing this falsehood.
"To this battle I will turn my creative energy, I
will give my time and I will devote my very being, while never allowing
my self, my efforts or my cause to become the aggressor, never
conceding the premise of the enemy by becoming the enemy."
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