Tuesday, 16 February 2016

More Pseudolegal Nonsense that drives me insane

     I've received this image in my Facebook feed a few times now, so it's passed my unofficial threshhold for debunking it on my blog.

The text reads (for the benefit of the search engines):

"Well officer... a crime requires an injured party. Seeing as there isn't one, I can assume you're attempting to manufacture my consent to a contract with the state's corporate policy in order to generate revenue as part of a racketeering scam."

     There is just so, so much wrong in this to address, but the first thing I want to point out is the smug smarty-pants big words tactic, to make it sound like the author knows what she's talking about. Now, I have no problem with people using big words. But here's the key to effective, honest writing: only use words that help you to be understood by your reader. Big words can do that, if you're writing for an audience who actually understands those words and the big words are clearer or more precise than simple common words, but if they have to be used correctly. 
     Take, for example, the phrase "manufacture my consent". That will probably ring a few bells as people recognize the title of a book by Noam Chomsky. Oooh, how learned and erudite this person must be, citing Chomsky! Except that Chomsky's book was about the role of mass media as a propaganda institution; this is a traffic stop, a one-on-one interaction between a police officer and a driver that has nothing to do at all with mass media. Ironically, the meme itself is much closer to an instance of propaganda.
     This is a clear sign that the smartass driver in the meme really doesn't actually know what these words mean, and is using them more for their authoritative sound than for any actual attempt at explanation.

     So here's what some of the words actually do mean. 

     Crime: Actually, crime does not require "an injured party". You're thinking of a tort. Tort law is concerned with correcting private wrongs, where a defendant's misdeed causes some kind of harm to a plaintiff. Notably, the police will usually not pull you over for committing a tort; it's up to the injured party to sue you to recover damages. And in tort, it's all about compensation, not punishment; the plaintiff shouldn't be the one to pay the price for the defendant's actions. 
     Crime doesn't actually require an injured party, at least not in the way we usually think of a plaintiff. This is pretty obvious when you consider the crime of murder: a dead person cannot sue, because, well, dead. At law, a dead person is not a person at all, and has no interests. (Their family can sue in tort for loss of their loved one, but that's separate from the crime of murder.) When someone commits a crime, they offend against the Sovereign, the King's Peace, the law of the land. That's why criminal cases are prosecuted by the Crown in Canada and the U.K. as Regina vs. Allegedbadguy ("Regina" being Latin for "Queen"), or by The People in the U.S. And the purpose of prosecuting crime is not to compensate Her Majesty for the loss to her sovereign dignity, but to punish you, to deter you and others from disregarding your duty to obey the law. 
     Now, traffic regulations are what we call quasi-criminal law. That is, you don't usually get a criminal record for just going over the speed limit or failing to signal a lane change, and they tend to be punished with fines instead of jail terms, but they are based on the same legal principle: the state can pass laws regulating what you can and can't do, and can punish you if you break those rules. I've written before about traffic regulations and why they're justified, so I'll not rehash that here. But the point here is this: yes they absolutely can and indeed should enforce the law even if there is no "victim".

     Consent/Contract: To consent is to agree, which is vital for a contract to have any legal effect; that's why it's traditional to sign contracts, to signify that one agreed to be bound by the exchange of promises. In the present context it's not clear what consent has to do with anything, because traffic laws are not based on consent. (Well, they sort of are, insofar as democratic governments pass laws on the authority given them by the people in elections, which means that collectively we have consented to those laws, but unlike a contract, laws passed by the legislature do not require your individual consent for you to be legally bound by them. Another reason why you should vote; those laws are going to bind you whether you like it or not, so you might as well try to have some influence over how they're made.)
     In fact, the term "consent" is here being used as part of the pseudo-legal nonsense spouted by Sovereign Citizen types, in which all government power boils down to semi-magical contracts that can be dispelled with the right incantation of disbelief. They're just ridiculously wrong about that.
     And how the hell can you have "a contract with the state's corporate policy"? I mean, a contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties based on an exchange of promises; the state can be a party to a contract, but not the state's "corporate policy". Could you enter into a contract with my fear of mushrooms, or the Coca Cola Company's annual report? These things are the preferences or desires of persons, but not persons. Talk about "consenting to" such things is just incoherent nonsense.
     In any event, the issue of consent is irrelevant. Your duty to obey the speed limit, or any other law of general application, does not depend on your agreeing to do so.

     Racketeering Scam: This part, actually, is sometimes true, but in a way that undermines the whole argument. You see, a racket is when you use an otherwise legitimate transaction as a cover for extortion or embezzlement. For example, in a protection racket, you might record on your books expenses for "security" or "consulting" or "friendship association dues", but what you're really paying for is the privilege of not having your business burned down. What's key is that the cover transaction is prima facie legitimate.
     There is no question that traffic enforcement is sometimes the basis for a racket. Cities like Ferguson, Missouri, have infamously become dependent upon fines instead of taxes for revenue, which creates perverse incentives for law enforcement. (Hint: A perfectly successful enforcement program results in nobody being arrested at all, because nobody breaks the law. Every arrest is, at best, a partial failure. When you measure your success by the raw number of arrests, you're doing it wrong.) These situations are often the result of an attempt to lower taxes, which is popular among property owners and the wealthy because it shifts the burden onto other people, usually people with less green in their wallets and more brown in their complexions. 
     But as bogus as these schemes are, it's important to note that the cover transaction, a fine, is in principle a perfectly legitimate arrangement. Although the enforcement regime may be corrupt and fraudulent, they are still trying to pass it off under a legitimate cover, because while there may be a fairer and more effective way to calculate fines for traffic violations, traffic regulations are valid, and fines are a valid way to enforce them.

     Look. Nobody likes to get a speeding ticket. I get that. And it's entirely natural to be angry when you get one. But just because you find rules inconvenient doesn't mean they're unfair, and just because some pseudolegal babbling makes you feel vindicated doesn't mean you are.


  1. I always enjoy reading your blog posts. Great deconstruction and explanation, as always. I love the "right incantation of disbelief" line the best. Unfortunately, it seems to me at least, that the general publics' notion of exactly this "incantation of disbelief" is resulting in our current level of actual social discourse and understanding of the rule of law and the role of government.

  2. Thanks, Adam. I still optimistically believe that the "general public" is a bit smarter than that. I mean, they might well be taken in by the snake oil, but most of them will still be willing to consider more credible explanations.

    I wish I could find an explanation for why the formatting got stuck in boldface for the last couple of paragraphs.

  3. "This is pretty obvious when you consider the crime of murder: a dead person cannot sue, because, well, dead."
    Good point; so the DEAD SPEAKERS (corp orate) rules ({Love}Life, Law, Force) rule?
    And the Grantor Of Dominion grated dominion of all to the Living or the Dead?

    "And how the hell can you have "a contract with the state's corporate policy"?"
    Through CROWN-COPYRIGHT-MATERIAL. It is called this; BIRTH-CERTIFICATE. The FAMILY-NAME. styled as per the Chicago Styles Manual. In CORPORATE. Policy, Proper Nouns are not used for Family Names.
    As per "Crown copyright in the information age 1998", BIRTH. DEATH. LAND. PASSPORTS.DRIVERS LICENCE are all examples of CROWN-COPYRIGHT-MATERIAL.Property of the CROWN.
    Also, when a POLICE-OFFICER. states that " the Crown owns your body and you are coming with us" under threat of violence, i am convinced.

    In the Crown system, penalties - punishment and or forfeiture, are generously prided for no wrong, no harm and no loss any one or thing. Ask the QUEEN-OF-AUSTRALIA.

  4. I'm not sure you understood my argument.

    First, I was trying to distinguish between TORTS and CRIMES, in response to the meme's false claim that "a crime requires an injured party". Murder is a crime without an injured party, because the injured party no longer exists as a party at all. The requirement for an injured party is for torts, not crimes.

    Second, I think you have misunderstood what copyright is all about, and thus what crow copyright means. Copyright is just the right to make copies of a document or other work; it does NOT include ownership of the information in the work (I do not violate Tolkein's copyright by telling you that Frodo takes the Ring to Mordor, but I would if I used all the same words he did in the same order.) Crown copyright in birth certificates and the like is similar; the Crown doesn't own your name or your birthdate or any of that information. It may have exercised some copyright over a particular presentation of that information in the form of an official birth certificate, but that's it. All these documents (birth certificates, land titles, etc.) are just ways of documenting legal facts; if someone doesn't believe you were born in such and such a place on such and such a date, the birth certificate is a handier way to prove it than getting your mother to swear out an affidavit. That's all.

    Also, your police officer should never say "The Crown owns your body" because that just ain't so. When you are arrested, your freedom of movement of YOUR body is temporarily restrained (by force if need be) in order to compel your attendance at a legal proceeding where claims against you are being alleged. (If people were free to ignore such proceedings by just not showing up, nobody could ever assert their legal rights against anyone.) There is NO ownership claim over your body. None. Only an enforceable obligation to attend to face the claim against you. In principle, you should not be held in custody pending trial unless you are a flight risk (you might not show up for trial) or a danger to the public, although it's true that some jurisdictions have turned the bail system into a revenue centre (which is grossly wrong, I'll grant).

    And as for the penalties, at least in the case of speeding and other regulatory infractions, they are NOT assessed for "no wrong". You DO wrong others by speeding or otherwise violating traffic laws, even if you happen not to cause the harm of an accident. You expose other people to unnecessary risk, and you impose upon them various burdens by using more than your fair share of the road and publicly owned resources. This is why we have these laws.

  5. Tom, no malice or disrespect intended.
    Not a good typer, i try to keep things simple, starting at base (origin), foundation, where i stand in the great scheme (scam) of things.

    Interaction in most events/experiences requires communication, and in some instances, precise, exact, factual firsthand knowledge with empirical evidence communications is demanded so a meeting of the minds will be done.

    Starting at the beginning, it appears the photographic scenario begins with a man, wearing clothing which exhibits possible signs, siguals, symbols and WORDS and protective head gear, leaning inside a stationary automobile and asking a woman a question.
    We have other visuals which provide a minimal of comprehension of what the scenario is about.

    What i would like to know is;
    How did the man get the woman to stop travelling presumably in her property?
    As you are aware, there are multiple ways to impede progress.

    So the obvious question is by what right and or authority and or direction and or control did the man get the woman to stop travelling presumably in her property?

    What would happen if the woman did not answer the mans question?
    Would the man use force?
    Would the man detain the woman?
    Would the man exercise direction, orders and physical control over the woman?

    Questions ad infini.

    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Part 2. Articles 7, 8, 9, and 24.2. This covenant is not recognised in AUSTRALIA. Trust me.

    Yes, it is a scenario.
    Me for now.

    1. Well, the image is probably just a stock photo used for the purpose of illustrating a familiar context: a traffic stop.

      Now, you emphasize that the woman is travelling "in her property", which I take to mean her car. But she is travelling ON community property, a road built and maintained by the state for public use. Part of maintaining the roads for public use involves establishing and enforcing rules for how people can use it safely and sustainably.

      Should there not be laws? Or should they just not be enforced? How do you think societies should be governed?

  6. tom, do think the man was trying to help the woman?
    i do not think so.
    that is sad.
    who knows, one day we may all decide to help.
    help all.
    i wish for all to be happy.
    Fare thee well.

    1. Your "Fare thee well" conveys an intention to leave the discussion, which I'll respect, but I'll not leave your question unanswered.

      It does not FEEL like the police are helping you when they stop you to cite you for a traffic violation, but (assuming a genuine good-faith enforcement regime) they are helping the users of the road generally. I don't like getting speeding tickets, but I very much benefit from the fact that most people tend to drive with an eye to avoiding tickets. So in the big picture, yes, absolutely: he WAS helping her.

      (In many cases they're actually helping the driver they stop, too. Years ago, I was stopped and informed of a burned out headlight I'd not noticed. No fine; I just had to go show them I'd fixed it, and the ticket as cancelled. Another time, my son had JUST outgrown his car seat and was sitting in a booster seat, and the police officer wanted to check that he was safe. Again, no fine.)

      I should stress, of course, that this is about genuine good faith enforcement of traffic regulations. When fines are used primarily as a means of revenue generation rather than a deterrent, you have an inherently corrupting situation.

  7. Interesting take. I must correct you on a few things.

    One, this is not just a sovereign citizen type meme. Many Libertarians and Republicans feel this way as well. And, seeing all the corruption in police departments recently (planting evidence, shooting people that are crawling on a hotel floor, etc), it is entirely feasable to question the police.

    Secondly, as a philosophy, Libertarians believe that without a victim, there can be no crime, ie, victimless crimes. Even the FBI mentions victimless crimes in the beginnings of a DVD, saying piracy is not a victim less crime (which I agree). But, going 10 mph over the speed limit hurts no one, so therefore there is no victim. Up until a person hits someone or destroys property, who is the victim of going 40 mph over the speed limit?

    Last, speed limits are entirely too low across all major highways and interstates. If speed limits made the public safer, then when Illinois raised the speed limit on the interstates in non-urban areas, the crash rate should have gone up as well. Quite the opposite. If you go to www.reason.com and search for speed limits, you'll find multiple exmamples of this (increasing speed limits and decreasing accidents).

    Whatever the law is, so be it. But, again, it's a philosophical standpoint, that a crime requires a victim, and has no basis in actual law.

    1. It isn't JUST sovereign citizens, but the pseudolegal arguments are highly characteristic of them.

      The philosophy about crime requiring a victim is problematic in several ways, both practical and theoretical, and the clearest example of the latter is murder. After a (successful) murder, there is no victim anymore; the legal person who might otherwise be considered the victim simply does not, at law, exist.

      On a practical level, there are a great many problems with requiring a clearly identified individual victim for a crime to exist. Who is the victim of a bribery that induces an elected official to vote a certain way on a bill? Sure, maybe I as a voter wanted them to vote the other way, but it's not as if I had a RIGHT to their decision, or else we wouldn't rely on elected decision makers; we could just litigate it in the courts. Who is the victim of insider trading, or voter fraud?

      The answer in these sorts of cases is usually "everybody", and the state exists in principle to represent the interests of everybody. Tort law can do a lot to protect the rights of individuals and groups, but it is simply not practical or fair to force some private individual to prosecute wrongs that are diluted across the entire society. (The tragedy of the common).

      As for speed limits, I've written on that before on this blog. The purpose of speed limits is NOT simply to make traffic safer, but to regulate the use of a scarce resource (the roads) in such a way as to maximize its utility to everyone. See