Stripmining the Citizenry, and the Future of Work   (January 16, 2010)

Readers respond to "stripmining the citizenry/theft by other means" and the future of work.

I received numerous insightful comments in response to "Improving Public Safety" and Theft By Other Means and The Inherent Problem with Offering Specific Advice.

I'll kick off the discussion with a quote from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who supposedly said, "Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything."

That is, everything happens as a result of our compliance, complicity and passivity.

Chris Sullins (author of Operation SERF (Strategic Action Thriller):

For the first time ever, my wife and I just received income tax forms mailed to us from a neighboring city. We've never worked in that city and although our street shares a very long stretch of road with it, we are miles outside the city limits.

I commented to my wife this was how Greek city states and Euro Duchies operated. You'd wake up to a knock on the door and the tax collector has come by to inform you of the authority of the nearby kingdom which has now incorporated your cottage within its new boundaries. Back then the tax collector was visibly enforced my the armed guys on horse nearby.

I will send a letter informing this neighboring city of their gross error of jurisdiction, but I have to wonder at what point does a more forceful attempt at a shakedown begin? That's not going to fly with this veteran who knows the term "due process". However, at what point do TPTB no longer care about DP? Haven't they already demonstrated their constant flaunting of the rules we're all suppose to live by?

I can easily imagine a situation in which some city bureaucrat files something by computer at the state level against my future paycheck to garnish for an "unpaid city tax" (w/ penalty) for a tax I didn't legally owe in the first place. After I notice the monetary deduction from my paycheck and take issue w/ the state over it, of course, I have to go through more paperwork and meetings to get it removed than the effort to illegally levy it against me in the first place. Is that Kafka-esque enough?


One of the problems associated with rising traffic fees is the smog testing, required, I believe, every other year before you can drive your legally registered vehicle. While many garages are able to smog the vehicle, only a handful of the blessed have a hotline into the DMV. This means if you are dissatisfied with the service at the only DMV approved station in your region for WHATEVER reasons, and you fail the smog test, you must use that garage again to retest and often, retest again. These select few stations are known as Gold Seal stations and only they carry the power to remove the damning label already wired into the DMV's computerized records of "Gross Polluter".

If you were unhappy with them to begin with, you have no choice but to be miserably forced to return and return again. In my case it got so crazy, after spending thousands on repairs to meet smogging requirements for a rockbuggy driven only 30 miles a week for picking up supplies from town and exploring back trails, our biker mechanic saw what was happening and took it to the Gold Seal station himself where it passed easily.

I really felt my female presence at the Gold Seal Gods was a target for extended rip offs. The biker mechanic had already fixed the rockbuggy for smogging three times before he took it there himself. What I am suggesting is that while stripmining is observed to occur at the official bureaucratic levels, it trickles down into the well of the populations through the desperation of grocery clerks and errand boys flexing their biceps because they can.

In a way, I see a definite relationship between this situation and civil rioting and looting should we suddenly find ourselves in a disaster scenario.

Robert O.:

As an addendum to your post, "Improving Public Safety" and Theft By Other Means, let me add an announcement from the Great State of Tennessee:

THP to target commercial vehicles this year:

"NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Highway Patrol will target commercial vehicles this year in a campaign similar to others focusing on drunken drivers, motorists not wearing seat belts and drivers violating laws in work zones.

Operation "Speeding Trucks And Negligent Drivers" (STAND) will target commercial motor vehicles that speed, drive recklessly, follow too closely and change lanes improperly. Approximately 4,000 hours have been dedicated to this campaign through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

THP Col. Mike Walker said in a news release that state troopers have been trying to save lives one stop at a time for 80 years, and this mission will continue in 2010."

Strip mining/theft by other means moves to another level. I suggest that all the "drunken drivers, motorists not wearing seat belts and drivers violating laws in work zones" have been tapped out. Everyone with a room temperature IQ is on to the governments game, and have adjusted their driving habits accordingly. The coffers are going dry. A new game must be created. A new step above your "much more could be done if only we were given the proper tools" on your 'Plan to Increase Public Safety' graph, the graph is going exponential! Bigger game (Truckers) = larger fines = more profiteering for TPTB.

You hit it on the head again. I quote you: One of their primary strategies is to raise revenue without actually "raising taxes," something which might actually cause the citizenry to arise from their somnambulent absorption with cellphone apps, iPods, TV and other "entertainments."

A stroke of genius by the State: tax the interstate traffic, not the local sheeple! No one will mind. No one who votes locally, anyway. Besides, the trucking companies are just more 'corporate bullies', give 'em hell. (Tennessee, by geography, has the most interstate trucking traffic in the nation.)

And you gotta love the quote at the end, "THP Col. Mike Walker said in a news release that state troopers have been trying to save lives one stop at a time for 80 years, and this mission will continue in 2010." I would guess that the mission will only continue at higher and higher levels of 'Public Safety' until the State collapses.


I enjoy reading your weblog. After reading today's entry, I thought that this new law passed in Georgia would be of interest:

Georgia's "Super Speeder Law takes Effect January 1 ($200 surcharge plus $50 fee and suspension of license/right to drive upon failure to pay.)

What a gem!

James S.

Your post of 1/15 on how local governments are strip mining the public couldn’t be more true. Here in San Diego the city recently doubled the permit fee to add solar panels to your home. Does this make any sense at all?

I’m also sure you read the recent proposal by our Governor to add speed trap cameras to our highways to “catch” citizens going over the speed limit. These go hand in hand with our notorious red light cameras. Of course, this was sold in the name of “public safety” but the news article did mention the anticipated “revenue” to the state.

My 22-year-old son recently wrote a college essay on red light cameras. His research clearly showed that red light cameras actually caused more accidents because drivers would slam on their brakes at the first sign of a yellow signal. This greatly increased rear end collisions at intersections that had red light cameras.

“Public Safety” indeed. It’s obvious to me that our local police force has become nothing more than “Revenue Enhancement Officers.”

I continue to wonder how long we will put up with these blatant tactics.

I also received a number of cogent comments on the future of work ( The Inherent Problem with Offering Specific Advice January 12, 2010)

Lee B.

After reading today's post on the futility of specific advice I thought of a concept that has been an important anchor point in my life. In a college class many years ago, we were presented with the Buddhist concept of seeking "Right Livlihood" as a major life goal.

Over the years this concept has grown in my mind to encompass almost all of the externalities in ones life. Of course Buddhism offers not a clue of what "Right Livlihood" might entail. Obviously this injunction doesn't mean get a job and make lots of money.

Over my lifetime, my own exploration of the meaning of this injunction has led me to a life and livelihood very similar to the broader meaning in in your work Survival+. So now in my 69th year, Social Security is my main income...BUT, the house I built over the 38 years while my physical strength was sufficient, the sign shop I put together to make use of the skills I possesed, my function in the community, all stemmed from my exploration of "what the hell am I supposed to be doing with my life here and now???"

The people who seem to have achieved genuine success in life have that one thing in common, they have found their own purpose and meaning in life. They are all marching to their own drummer. From where I sit, I would add you to that list.

Gregg B.

Somewhat related to today's post on future work, here are some ideas from David Holmgren on sustainable occupations, which also happen to be opportunites for valuable meaningful work in the new, new economy. I thought some of your readers might find this useful.

permaculture principles.

Cheryl A.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. I feel the same frustration as many of your readers. The advice I would offer is that each person make the accommodations he or she needs to feel "relatively" secure considering the various potential outcomes. Further, be flexibile and continually reassess what is a fluid situation. I have a close friend who always reminds me that "the world can only end once."

Grant P.

I enjoyed (as always) today's entry. One more thing I would add as concrete advice for people right now is to take advantage of the current system while you can. For example, if your knees are killing you, get the knee replacement surgery done now while you still have health insurance and the operation is "free". If you've always wanted to see Paris, do it now while airfares are still relatively affordable and travel is easy. I'm not saying people should max out their credit cards and do frivolous things, but that they should check things off their life-lists that they can reasonably afford now rather than put them off into the future. There is no telling what the future will hold, but the $4000 you spend on the trip to Paris won't change your ultimate destiny. If you wait to do these things, they may be a lot more expensive or even prohibited in the future.

Andrew T.

Todays post was spot-on. I agree wholeheartedly that we all need to be the architects of our own future and figure out what works on a personal level. I am attempting to organize my life on the principles enunciated in both the book and frequently on the site.

For example, we are letting an associate store his classic cars in our barn in exchange for his services as a mechanic, no cash involved and everyone is perfectly happy. I am proud to be a Freemason and membership has meant meeting many members of the local community who I otherwise would never have known. The wealth of local knowledge these contacts provide is invaluable and now my family truly feel and get treated like locals. (it only took 9 years!)


thanx for your great story today. I like to be prepared and the things James promotes on his makes some sense to me. But eventually you run out of your supplies and have to go on with life as it is. Thats what I like about your approach. Thumbs up!

As a note I'm having an immense network of various people with different skillsets. It all went very naturally but took a long time and effort. Thats why I don't like to move to the country and start all over again. I'm a busy full-time photographer, did Technical University (MSc), I can fix cars, motorbikes, electronics, computers, houses, plumbing, carpentry, learning how to weld. I have always something to do, helping friends building their house, fix their cars etc. I've have never believed in fixed jobs. Working now more than 20 years in my own business. Still going strong!

I've never had any debts, always worked different jobs when I was in college. No mortgage or carloans. If I can't pay something I want with my own money I don't buy it. But at the moment I'm still renting a small house and looking for something to buy. That comes ofcourse with a mortgage ;-) I'm still in doubt what to do. Keep renting or stepping into the mortgage slavery.

Harun I.

"I am having somewhat the same problem that I have with all such writings by assorted authors: superb analysis of what's wrong with the current American situation, but not much detail on what individuals can DO"

"An independent person knows that there are no "experts" to whom one can safely surrender one's intellect." --Nathaniel Branden

The above quote goes to the heart of this discussion, which quite frankly is a fallacy, that an observer of a problem must provide an answer to the problem. Just because you discovered a roadside IED does not mean you know how to diffuse it, nor does it mean that a path you prescribe around it will not subject you to other hidden dangers.

You and many others have presented an argument based on your perception of information. There are simply too many permutations to prescribe a reliable antidote to this malaise. If we buy into your argument then we must do the hard mental work and run the complex scenarios that pertain to us as individuals.

Subconsciously, people who engage in such behavior are looking to absolve themselves should things go wrong. With that said, there is nothing wrong with seeking advice, but that advice must be met with critical analysis.

Few plans survive contact with the enemy. The answers to what is coming will be found in creativity, flexibility and agility with a heavy dose of cooperation. A plan should be made up of IF/THEN statements. There will be no absolutes, only probability. If we were to graphically depict this it would resemble the orbital of an electron around the nucleus of an atom: a definite mass (us), surrounded by a haze of infinite possibilities generated by the probability function of where the electron may be located. It is the ability to operate within this haze which will raise or lower the probability of survival.

What is man's specialization? What gives man his capacity to survive? Is it claws and fangs? Or strength and speed? Or is it some combination? Answer: None of the above. Man's adaptive capacity lies solely within his intellect, his mind. Independently we are all able to survive. Interdependence leverages our individual strengths increasing the probability of survival. Dependence is simply a drain; it consumes and gives nothing in return.

This "wanting to be told what to do" goes to the very heart of society's woes. It is the difference between dependence and independence/interdependence. People who listened to and surrendered their intellect to so-called experts like Greenspan, Bernanke, Wall St. analysts and their servile sycophantic Media indebted themselves beyond their ability to repay. Now these same people are indignant that Wall St. is slapping itself on the back while they face foreclosure or bankruptcy. Had they not surrendered their intellect and run the numbers, or more importantly, questioned the very premise of why homes (a consumable) increase in value, then this scenario might not have ever occurred.

That we consider hunkering down is alien to me. By training and instinct I must run toward the firefight. Why? Because those engaged men are depending on me. As a nation we faced one enemy which spawned another. The enemy of freedom, Apathy, spawned a government that is now an enemy of sorts to its people. Apathy must be killed, not allowed to slink away to be replace by paralyzing fear. Then we must collectively engage this government with one voice that says: "Do our bidding or be thrown out of office!" As individuals must understand this great republic is depending on us to (metaphorically) grab our weapons and ammo and as many frags as we can carry and get in the fight.

But this will only happen when we spiritually understand that exponential consumption means exponential depletion, and therefore we must, for our own sake, reorganize to a more sustainable model of economy.

What is happening is all around us but it came from within; what must be done must also come from within.

Thank you, readers. We shall soon have a new forum on which to share thoughts, experiences and insights. Stay tuned!

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