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Local Government and the Age of Petty Tyranny

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There are some who believe the concern that so many of us have about the amount of government interference in the lives of American citizens is exaggerated. In a sense it is easy to see why so many feel this way, because to all outward appearances, most people still seem free to go where they want, associate with whom they choose, and speak their mind in just about any public forum. But this is more a reflection of the fact that we have a democratic tradition that goes back several hundred years, to a time that predates the American Revolution. When the forms and habits of democracy are as well entrenched as they are here, there is no possibility that citizens would tolerate an openly aggressive effort on the part of government or powerful corporations to rescind our freedoms in an obvious, comprehensive, or forthright manner.

But in order to understand what is really going on, we need to look a little deeper below the surface. This is where we can see the signs and track the disturbing trends, and it is here that the specifics of a stealth campaign that is designed to end the independence of the American people can be seen with full clarity. This is not to suggest that there is some grand maniacal conspiracy operating behind the scenes; rather, what is really happening is that the bureaucratic mentality, which sees people as resources that need to be managed and manipulated, is spreading like an invasive species throughout the various levels and institutions of government. Things first started spiraling out of control in the mid-to-late decades of the twentieth century, but as we have moved into the new millennium, the momentum of this rise of the bureaucratic mindset has picked up steam. It has rolled out of Washington D.C. like a runaway freight train, and it is now penetrating deeply into the heart and soul of American democracy in each and every locality where the most important collective decisions that affect the health and welfare of everyone are being made.

More America’s Forgotten History With An Emphasis On Our Moral, Religious, and Constitutional Heritage…

Looking for proof of what is happening? How about starting with this number – 40,000. That is the number of brand new state laws that went into effect in the United States on January 1, 2012, when the new year officially began. That averages out to 800 new laws per state, and it means that 40,000 activities or practices that had been perfectly legal for decades have now been declared verboten by state legislatures and governors everywhere.

These numbers are really quite extraordinary, but what has been occurring has been largely hidden from view by a complacent media and overlooked by the majority of American citizens, who are simply too busy trying to survive in a faltering economy to spend time educating themselves about what is actually going on inside the corridors of political power. So while it is true that to outward appearances it may seem as if democracy is still healthy, in reality its blood is being slowly drained away by the soulless vampires of the bureaucratic class, as well as by the politicos who do their bidding. And yes, this last sentence does accurately describe what American democracy has become – an exercise in endless bureaucratic rulemaking, where those who are elected actually follow the dictates of powerful governmental institutions, which is the opposite of the way it is supposed to be. Whatever a system like this might be called, it is certainly not democracy, at least not as we would normally define and interpret that concept.

Local Outrages and the Triumph of the Bureaucratic Mindset

But what about government at the local level? While bureaucracy and the philosophy of controlled management have gained hegemony in Washington D.C. and in state capitals, surely our local representatives are still by and large representing the interests of the people in their ongoing struggle against big government and big business, who are working in partnership to keep us controlled and predictable. Local government is as close to the grassroots as the institutions of governing can get, and it is this reality that helps to keep mayors, alderman, district attorneys, law enforcement agencies, and even local bureaucrats attuned to the needs and desires of their constituents.

Or at least, this is the way it should be. But sadly, the bureaucratic mentality is taking over even here, as local government is slowly becoming every bit as rigid and inflexible and out of control as the other levels of government. Counties and municipalities are abandoning common sense and face-to-face lawmaking and administration in favor of a mindset that views ordinary people as if they are part of an unruly mob that must be herded like recalcitrant sheep.

For those who do not realize how bad things have been getting, here are just a few examples, all from within the last twelve months, that will illustrate what has been happening to average, law-abiding American citizens in cities and towns across the United States:

  • In Burnsville, Minnesota, a man named Mitch Faber was charged with a building code violation and placed under arrest for failing to finish a siding project on his house, a project that had been stalled by financial troubles. After receiving an ultimatum from the city, Faber spent $12,000 on a stucco façade to cover up the partial work that had been done, only to be told by a city inspector that this was not good enough. This visit was followed up by another from the police, and Faber was taken into custody and charged with the heinous crime of remodeling his home in an unacceptable manner.
  • In San Juan Capistrano, California, a town that was founded in the 1700s as a religious mission, Chuck and Stephanie Fromm were fined several hundred dollars for holding private Bible study meetings in their homes without a “conditional-use” permit. The statute that was applied prohibits religious organizations from holding services in residential neighborhoods.
  • Washington, D.C. resident Patricia White has so far racked up fines totaling over $2,000 for not recycling her cat litter, which she makes at home from newspapers and junk mail. District of Columbia laws require that cat litter always be put in a recycling bin, even though Ms. White’s homemade variety is not really suitable for salvage. Employees of the Department of Public Works have discovered her violations of the rule while picking through the trash in the waste bins outside her apartment building, which is apparently something they are instructed to do at random locations throughout the city as a part of their regular duties.
  • In New Orleans, volunteers from the Hope Church in Metairie, Louisiana, were stopped from handing out free water bottles with the church’s name and address imprinted on them during the most recent Mardi Gras celebration. The reason? It was because they did not have an occupational license and had not registered to pay sales tax. An agreement was subsequently negotiated that allowed the church to distribute free hand sanitizer outside of temporary porta-potties instead.

These examples of petty tyranny are far from atypical. Municipalities everywhere are regulating people to death, and there is no way to tell where it will all end. The way things are going, before long the authorities may even start shutting down lemonade stands or giving out citations to Girl Scouts selling cookies.

Of course, something like that would be completely ridiculous. Clearly, we are just engaging in hyperbole here in order to make a point, and there is no chance things could ever go that far.

But wait – we are not done with our list just yet:

  • In Hazelwood, Missouri, two schoolgirls were cited for selling Girl Scout cookies illegally from a stand they had constructed outside their home. These aspiring Bonnie Parkers were in violation of a city ordinance that bans the sale of commodities from people’s homes.

And there is more:

  • Three young girls in Midway, Georgia, were busted by the police for selling lemonade from a homemade stand without first acquiring a business permit. In justifying the crackdown on the nefarious activities of these aspiring arch-criminals, the chief of police stated that “we were not aware of how the lemonade was made, who made the lemonade, and of what the lemonade was made.” Jack Webb as Joe Friday couldn’t have explained it more concisely.

This last story may seem unbelievable, but the one thing it most certainly is not is unusual, as authorities everywhere have begun cracking down on the lemonade racket. In addition to the Georgia sting operation, in recent months stands have been shutdown and warnings issued in New York City; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; St. Louis; Portland; Seattle; Miami Beach, Florida; St. Paul, Minnesota; Salem, Massachusetts; Corlaville, Iowa; and McAllen, Texas. Everyone should be able to sleep more easily tonight knowing that their local governments are bound and determined to protect them from the evils of lemonade and Girl Scout cookies.

Tyranny Creeps while the Public Sleeps

Rigid, uncaring, inflexible, unrepresentative, completely lacking in common sense – this is what the bureaucratic mindset looks like when it is running amok, and it is this bureaucratic rampage that is slowly eroding the very foundations of democracy that we have all taken for granted for so long. Steps must be taken and taken quickly if government is to be rescued from the clutches of those who know how everyone should be living, because we must understand that these people are perfectly willing to use mechanisms of the law to shape and mold us all into their ideal image of what a perfect citizen should look like. Today’s petty tyranny, if left unchecked, could ultimately devolve into tomorrow’s totalitarian state, and the people of this country need to wake up to the nature of this threat before it is too late – if it is not too late already.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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