Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Highway to Serfdom

A state-organized mob led by a Chekist (secret policeman) calls for the extermination of "kulak" farmers in Soviet Ukraine during the early 1930s.

"[T]he theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."
-- Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Anastasio Prieto, a truck driver from El Paso, Texas, doesn't trust banks and prefers to carry his savings with him in cash. While this is a dangerous way to manage one's money, a cursory glance at recent headlines tends to validate Prieto's concerns about the stability of the fractional-reserve banking system.

During a stop at a weigh station in New Mexico on August 8, Prieto made a critical mistake: He cooperated with the police, assuming that as a law-abiding individual he had nothing to fear from them.

Never make that assumption.

A New Mexico state trooper asked Prieto for permission to search his truck for contraband, such as needles or cash in excess of $10,000. Displaying an ingenuousness that breaks my heart, the truck driver consented, informing the officer that he was carrying nothing illegal -- but admitting that he had $23,700 on board.

Never consent to a police search, for any reason.

Never admit to a police officer that you are carrying large amounts of cash.

assume that a police officer would make the same use of that information that would be made by any other armed and potentially violent individual: He would find some way to steal your money.

And that is exactly what the officer did to Prieto, with the help of comrades from the federal Staatspolizei -- agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Border Patrol. Over his objections, Prieto was detained for several hours, photographed, and fingerprinted, while his truck was searched by agents with drug-sniffing dogs.

As Prieto had explained, his truck was devoid of contraband. So the police apologized profusely, returned his money, bought him a cold drink and sent him away with a friendly smile and a wave.

Oh, stop it! You're killing me! What country do you think we live in, anyway?

The police "forfeited" -- that is, stole -- Prieto's savings. The DEA agents who presided over the theft "told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he'd have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales," reported the Houston Chronicle.

You see, under existing laws and recent legal decisions, "possession of a large sum of money" by a motorist "is `strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity."

So ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in a decision handed down almost exactly a year before Prieto was robbed at gunpoint in New Mexico. The case was entitled "United States of America v. $124,700 in US Currency" (.pdf).

You see, it's not necessary to find the owner of the money guilty of anything; the money itself can be convicted of involvement in criminal activity and "punished" by being permanently taken into government custody.

Prieto has been told it will take a year for him to recover his stolen money, should the regime condescend to give any portion of it back. Meanwhile, he is apparently left penniless, with no funds to maintain the truck that is the source of his livelihood. The collectivist State ruling us treated Prieto in much the same way the Soviet state treated Ukrainian kulaks -- at least those kulaks who were permitted to live, anyway.

If our money can be seized from us simply because some agent of the State wants to, in what sense is it our property?

Summary seizure and "forefeiture" of property -- including cash -- by police is one of the larger gifts bestowed on our society by the murderous fraud called the "war on drugs." Ten years ago, Congress enacted a "reform" measure intended to rein in the practice, but as we see it is pointless to attempt to reform a practice that should be abolished outright.

Invariably, "forfeited" cash and goods are depicted as the ill-gotten gains of narcotics trafficking; it's never explained, however, how those supposedly dirty proceeds are magically cleansed once they are handed over to the police. The bounties seized by police are often used to buy the latest in tyranny tech, such pimped-out SWAT vehicles and other goodies for the jackbooted pests who are deployed to bring in the loot; this makes a nicely self-sustaining system of official corruption.

As the clip below documents, it's just nice to have some extra money to blow on kewl gadgets with little practical value:

Thanks to asset forfeiture, the Bridgeport, Connecticut police can simply steal the money to buy such cool toys without having to request it from officials who are expected to represent the interests of the local taxpayers.

In fact, asset forfeiture has made it possible for corrupt police departments (or do I repeat myself) to cut out courts and juries and get straight to the business of plunder.

To expedite the process, Bradenton, Florida's Police Department devised a "Contraband Forfeiture Agreement" (.pdf) for use by officers carrying out drug enforcement raids. Citizens who sign such agreements surrender their property -- such as cash or cars -- "to the DEPARTMENT free and clear of all claims or liens"; they also waive their due process rights. In exchange, the police agree not to prosecute.

Janie Brooks, a local resident in her mid-50s, was taken into custody by police who claimed to find drugs in her car. The automobile and $1,200 in cash were confiscated, and Brooks was intimidated into signing the agreement.

"He [the officer] kept rushing me, like, `Go ahead, things will be better if you did," recalled Brooks. "It was like, there's gonna be some big time stuff that happens to me if I don't sign it."

Asked for his expert opinion of the practice, law professor Joseph Little of the University of Florida overcame a tragic handicap -- decades of legal training -- to offer a sensible assessment: "It sounds like robbery to me."

Indeed it does -- robbery coupled with extortion and more than a hint of terrorism. And it was immensely profitable: The county's asset forfeiture fund at one point topped $150,000.

Using almost exactly the same methods -- traffic stops, contrived searches, and armed extortion in lieu of prosecution -- the Dallas County, Iowa Sheriff's Department sucked up $1.7 billion from motorists traveling along I-80 between 2002 and 2006. This profitable racket had to gear down just a bit after Sheriff Brian Gilbert was convicted of stealing $120,000 in stolen money.

But Gilbert's lenient sentence -- a $1,000 fine, a year's probation, and a brief term of "community service," rather than a prison term -- suggests that his comrades have a license to steal from the general public, as long as they don't skim from the State's take.

The same priorities governed the Soviet Union, of course: The police were free to expropriate the bourgeoise at whim, but stealing from the State was a capital offense.

Please be sure to visit The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.


Anonymous said...

Great post, and so, so true. The modern state has given us the culture of abuse, and Americans have bought into it.

I thought your piece on Lew Rockwell's site about Jose Padilla was outstanding. Must must never stop being vigilant!!

Anonymous said...

Yep...'we the people' have become a Nation of 'we the sheeple'... When 'the sheeple' stopped being vigilant and relied on the aristocracy to protect them, it became more obvious, everyday, what Americans have lost, are losing and may never regain. The 'powers-that-be' now sit back and chant...'Hail Victory!!'

dixiedog said...

During a stop at a weigh station in New Mexico on August 8, Prieto made a critical mistake: He cooperated with the police, assuming that as a law-abiding individual he had nothing to fear from them.

Yep, folk like to think of government as inherently filled with "holy" men and women. I don't necessarily doubt that today government abstractly is held in higher esteem than the church. It most certainly would be of no surprise to me.

I agree wholeheartedly about NEVER consenting to a search request and always ASSUME the "police" are no different than a thug, except for being state-sanctioned with a badge. Since I always view the authorities in light of how I view the commoners.

This crap about "holding them to a higher standard" be damned since they arise out of US. After all, if we cannot or refuse to hold ourselves to this "higher standard" why in the hell should we expect those in authority to so comport themselves?

Face it, Grigg, in the grander scheme of things even if the so-called "war on drugs" were ended today, the die has long ago been cast for tyranny because the commoners have all but completely lost the ability for self-control, and thus self-government. There are a thousand other "war on..." constructs the government could easily capitalize on precisely because of unbridled, uncontrolled appetites of the commoners.

It's the same dilemma faced by rudderless youngsters who loudly scream and whine of the "tyranny" of the RIAA and MPAA in their dogged pursuit of piracy lawsuits on theft of intellectual property. It inevitably leads to calls for government to increase its hand in these matters.

Here's a clue: If the youngsters weren't so interested in and slobbering all over themselves to consume the jungle noise and Hollyweird trash in the first damn place, the RIAA and MPAA wouldn't have such juicy cases to prosecute!

It's really quite simple to grok, folks. STOP FEEDING ON THEIR FRUIT AND THEY WILL GO BROKE! If you do decide to eat it, prepare to PAY for it!

I guess you could call this particular legal battleground the "war over [trashy, hellish, hedonistic] intellectual property."

It's funny when I think about it. I think I could wager confidently that hardly any truly edifying material is ever pirated like raunchy, depraved, hedonist culturally neutering material. No, of course not, as the trashy stuff is what's in the most demand..and they want it fo' FREE.

The people get the government they collectively deserve. The bad side to that reality is that as ALL reap the good, ALL likewise will reap the bad as well. As the sun shines on all, the rain also falls on all.

Anonymous said...

Will, You are in rare form with this topic. Right on the money brother. I have spent time in third world countries and in doing so have witnessed the graft and corruption that is endemic in these locales. I never thought it would ever happen here. Unfortunately it has. Keep speaking the truth no matter how much it offends. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Wearing a badge is now, apparently, a license to steal. "To Serve and Protect" should be replaced with "To Search and Profit". The modern highwayman not only works for but is also granted immunity by the state - a slick arrangement between partners in crime who view all cash carrying sheeple using the motorways as potential targets for fleecing.

Taylor Conant said...


If our money can be seized from us simply because some agent of the State wants to, in what sense is it our property?

Which begs the question... when is an agent of the State ever right in seizing your property?

Tonight at a local bar I watched a friend of mine who had given up on ever becoming "more than friends" with a lovely acquaintance of his decided to throw caution to the wind and get political with her, which, as most guys know, is a major vibe-killer when it comes to women.

The conversation, err, confrontation, went on for almost an hour and in the end both individuals were incredibly flustered and frustrated with one another, he with her for not being able to acknowledge the illegitimacy of coercion as a problem-solving tactic and thus, the illegitimacy of any and all government, and her with him for... not agreeing residents of New Orleans should be further "helped" out of their FEMA trailers with some good ol' tax-provided gubmint lubbin'.

Watching (and then listening to, as I put my hood up and my head down, mostly to control my own urge to jump into the ring) the spectacle made me realize something-- the reason I can't find a reasonable, logically sound defense of the statist position isn't because there are no reasonable, logical people in favor of statism, in all its forms. I can't find one because there isn't one. On the count of logic and reason, statism fails harshly and always.

Will, from reading your blog avidly over the past few months since I've discovered it, I've come to the realization that you're much to reasonable, logical and, most importantly in my opinion, principled, a man to not eventually wander into the camp of us anti-coercionists (or anarchists... a word I don't mind but which some do). When that day comes, I will be waiting with open arms and will relish the opportunity to shake your hand a bit more resolutely. As you well know, you can still love this land and the people on it without loving the government that claims it stands above.

Until then, I will sit and savor the thought of that moment, much like many sexually-frustrated young male jackals sit around waiting for the day some cute, child actress finally becomes "legal." Only minus the sexual innuendo that is implied by such a comparison.

Keep up the great work!

dixiedog said...

What's the current status of your book, Will? Inquiring minds want to know. I've read elsewhere that the manuscript is complete, but the title was tentative. Will there be a new title? The tentative one sounds perfect to me.

Perhaps, you've already divulged details of the book's current status and/or release date already and I missed it somewhere.

Anyway, I'm ready to buy and read it, especially to find out in detail what some of the specific causes and machinations in play that you may have attributed to our morphing into a Reich.

Larry said...

Amazing. You have to wonder what martial law will look like when it comes. Will it really be much different than what we have now?

Anonymous said...

I represented a victim of this legalized theft. You can try to get it back form the very same outfit who stole it from you. If it is a vehicle, it will remain in their impound lot for months before you will even get a hearing. You will have to rent or borrow another vehicle to get you where you need to go until then, and you will pay an attorney to represent you. If you lose at the hearing, you lose your vehicle. If you win, you will still pay for the vehicle you had to rent, your attorney fees and the accrued impound fees set by the thieves. But wait, there is option 'B'. For a tidy sum like $1,000.00 paid to the state and the signing of a release of liability you can have your car back tomorrow! Quite a system!

jomama said...

The same priorities governed the Soviet Union, of course: The police were free to expropriate the bourgeoise at whim, but stealing from the State was a capital offense.

The "perfect" implementation of the
meme, "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine".

We all know where that went...and coming soon to a street near you.

Anonymous said...

Boohoo, they're taking our "freedoms" away, boohoo.
You're not "free" and the dirty little secret is you never were.

¥ou all need to stop your pathetic whinging and if you really want to do something get all "187 on a m*therf*cking cop."
Either do something of significance or shut up and get in line.

Anonymous said...

As Dr. Ron Paul's (14th Congressional District of Texas and candidate for President in '08) sign on his in/out box in his Congressional office states:


That pretty much sums it up, from the IRS to Social Security on down to the several States.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 1980s a biker flew from Seattle to Salt Lake City to buy a bike, a Harely. He had about $4,000 cash on him to purchase the bike. Well it was discovered at airport that he had the cash and it was confiscated from him as "drug money."

He was there to buy a motorcycle, he had no drug connections, he NEVER got his money back.

definitely not for our Middle Eastern policy, remember that lemmmings.
Now bend your backs slaves and do what your Overseers tell you to do and to think.

William N. Grigg said...

Although it shouldn't be necessary to say so, I don't favor "getting all 187" on ANYBODY, whether we're talking about State employees or people who make an honest living.

Dixie Dog, the revised title of my much-delayed (arrrgh!) book is: "Liberty in Eclipse: The War on Terror and the Rise of the Homeland Security State." I've been through the galleys twice. Be advised that the thing weighs in at about 303 pages, not including the index and endnotes. It WILL be out in early September -- and I promise to let you know as soon as it's available.

Anonymous said...

That should be $1.7 million, not billion.

Anonymous said...

Oh my word. That clip with the Ct police was priceless. Amazing. What in the world is going on in this country?

Anonymous said...

Canada is in on the act now too:


Anonymous said...

Nobody should hold any office without passing a test on the Constitution.

To be brief:

Amendment 5:
...nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

And incase anyone's a dummy and missed it the first time:

Amendment 14
...No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any
State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In other words - NO!

They do not have the right to just take it.

You can not 'convict' money.

I don't care what the police chief or any scumbag paper pusher claims.

Until we vote to change the Constitution, it's the cops that are breaking the law, not the truck driver.

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect example of the old adage, They say Hitler killed 10 million people and Slalin killed 30 million, reality is, Hitler and Stalin probally didn't kill anyone, their "Public Servants" committed all that murdering and mayhem

Anonymous said...

Just think. This whole asset forfeiture deal got started under the "aw shucks" Ronald Regan presidency. I thought it was a bad idea at the time. In fact, they had a piece on 60 Minutes about it way back then.Some black guy owned a nursery and used cash because he didn't believe in banks. As I recall he lost something like $20K to the cops. The cops don't have to prove anything. All they need to do is say that they suspect that you got the money dealing drugs.

Anonymous said...

Give me a flippin' break! I'm sick and tired of people not taking responsibility for their own damn actions.

Yes, it sucks and should not be legal for the cops to have taken this guy's cash. But the guy had roughly $20k IN HIS TRUCK. That's dumb, any way you look at it. His truck could easily have been in an accident and caught fire, stolen, etc, and his money would be just as gone. Keep it in a bank.

Oh, yes. There's those of you who are going to argue that the bank can shut down, is making terrible loan decisions, blah, blah, fuckin' blah. I agree to some extent. But then find a reputable bank and not some tiny branch in "po-dunk town", Texas to leave your money in. Last time I checked, your money is insured up to $100k.

Oh, wait. Better yet. Keep your money in multiple banks. Ever heard the saying "Don't keep all your eggs in one basket"? Yeah, it's applicable to a lot of things. Maybe one bank goes under and you lose your money for some reason. Shit happens. Chances are, not all of the banks that you put your money in are going to go under.

You take a chance every morning when you get out of bed. Don't be a fucking retard. Educate yourself on the way things work. It's not that hard. Then maybe you won't have problems like Mr. Prieto.

William N. Grigg said...

Mr. Anonymous -- Keep a civil tongue and keyboard if you intend to keep posting here.

Mr. Prieto's "problem" was one no reasonable person would ordinarily anticipate. I'm sure he understood the risks from common bandits, but probably never expected that it would be the police who would rip him off.

The problem wasn't Prieto's lack of "responsibility"; his behavior (aside from an eccentric but defensible distrust of banks) wasn't the problem here.

Anonymous said...

My apologies on the "keyboard tongue". Long mornings make short tempers (not that that should be any excuse).

I agree that his "problem" is one that no reasonable person would anticipate. I also agree that what happened to him IS completely inappropriate (much less, arguably legal).

However, "defensible distrust of banks"? C'mon. Banks are human entities and are obviously subject to its flaws. Therefore, they're not perfect. But I wouldn't call his lack of complete trust "defensible". And I stick by my use of "don't put all your eggs in one basket".

And, yes, the police/government are the ones who seized his property (money), but had he taken other steps with his money, he wouldn't have been in that situation in the first place. Don't get me wrong; I don't mean to say that this situation is 100% his fault. It's not. But a common theme lately has been "freedom doesn't come free". To me, that means taking the time and effort to protect what is yours. It doesn't matter who comes to take your freedom/property/etc away. At the end of the day, it's still gone if you don't protect it, taking into account all of your current society's rules and standards.

Sorry for making this more of a "debate" than a blog/comment. Just thought I'd respond one more time with an appropriate tongue after cooling down.

Anonymous said...

"Comes a time in every man's life when he spits on his hands, hoists the black flag, and commences to slitting throats."

-H.L. Mencken

William N. Grigg said...

"Anonymous" has been a prolific contributor to this thread. This isn't a problem, but it does complicate things just a bit. :-)

I appreciate your efforts, uh, Anonymous (see what I mean?) to clean things up a bit. I of all people know how difficult it is to conquer a short temper. I'm Mexican-Irish, after all....

I agree that Prieto could have handled his money more prudently. But he's not the offender here. His case is just a particularly lurid example of what has become a very typical form of official theft. It's not as if people who DO take better care of their money are safe from this sort of thing, after all.

And think of it this way: What if Prieto had been forced to "forfeit" several thousand dollars in precious metals, rather than FRNs? Many people who distrust the fiat money/fractional reserve banking system, such as myself, "bank" our money in that form. While moving to Idaho in 2005, our family went through the section of I-80 patrolled by Sheriff Gilbert; had I been stopped, it's possible that Gilbert and Da Boyz would have tried to seize our savings --- thousands in cash, and a larger amount in silver and gold. After all, I fit the profile: Large Latino man driving an SUV (well, a mini-van -- close enough) carrying a substantial amount of money.

dixiedog said...

Thanks Will. I'm looking forward to it.

Yeah, I'm not surprised that the publisher decided on a more mundane title. A more "palatable" title for the masses, if you will :/.


Anonymous said...

This is almost a year late, but VERY IMPORTANT, so you should post it.

The acts you object to are not only aanti-liberty and of doubtful constitutional validity, but they may each be felonies by the government officials involved.

Certainlt the people have notice of this and are idiots to violate it. Travelers or cashier checks are adequate substitutes for most cash, except perhaps the $1,200 in Bradenton FL> Their carry-along written consent to forfeiture agreement is felony state and US Hobbs act (18 USC 1951) EXTORTION.

Most of these acts that should not be consented to may not have been consented to. Many states have oofficial misconduct in ppublic office and employment felony statutes. If not, these acts (even the intimidation ot get consent to search) also violate the US extortion and civil rights crimes (18 USC 242).

The issue is how to enforce these against the governments that have no enforcement rights for citizens in their constitutions or laws.

The only answer is either war (in which case wew lose because our military as as idiot brain washed as your trucker example)or by mass demonstrations, political challenges, and candidates - as the idiots said in the 1970s, leave it if it is an unloveable America.

As much as some of you dislike anonymous, and especially his frequent typpos or misspells, he and many others are essentially right. We ar all victims of the money and government controllers who by treason stole our people's controlled government on their second attempt in 1787 to 1789 at the con-con. Afterward they have deceived us from early on into falsely believing we were free. Now they are just exercising their control more tightly.

It is not comunism as one said, as even comomunism was only one of a number of sub isms of governmentism, which is an institution of Satan. (Rev 12:7-9 and 2:10)

Corruption Victim.