Blog description.

Accentuating the Liberal in Classical Liberal: Advocating Ascendency of the Individual & a Politick & Literature to Fight the Rise & Rise of the Tax Surveillance State. 'Illigitum non carborundum'.

Liberty and freedom are two proud words that have been executed from the political lexicon: they were frog marched and stood before a wall of blank minds, then forcibly blindfolded, and shot, with the whimpering staccato of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ resounding over and over. And not only did this atrocity go unreported by journalists in the mainstream media, they were in the firing squad.

The premise of this blog is simple: the Soviets thought they had equality, and welfare from cradle to grave, until the illusory free lunch of redistribution took its inevitable course, and cost them everything they had. First to go was their privacy, after that their freedom, then on being ground down to an equality of poverty only, for many of them their lives as they tried to escape a life behind the Iron Curtain. In the state-enforced common good, was found only slavery to the prison of each other's mind; instead of the caring state, they had imposed the surveillance state to keep them in line. So why are we accumulating a national debt to build the slave state again in the West? Where is the contrarian, uncomfortable literature to put the state experiment finally to rest?

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hans Fallada, Russel Norman & the Snitch Society; the Burden of New Zealand’s Tax Surveillance State.

Society exists for the benefit of its members – not the members for the benefit of society - Herbert Spencer

If I could trace those nodes in the past where my thinking changed toward the classical liberalism/libertarianism expressed in this blog, it was almost three decades ago when I was doing time.

Warning, language can be used to obfuscate and redirect, that last sentence may not mean what you think it said. I'll come back to it, but first the political abuse of language Orwell captured in his creation of doublespeak is integral to this piece, and there’s been another instance of it last week from Green Party leader, Russel Norman, that tells us as much about the man, as any policy issued by him. In the usual patronising appeal to his voters’ emotions, hoping to bypass their reason, referencing US jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jnr’s contention that taxation is the price we pay for civilisation, and thus, in Russel's mind, eschewed not to be a burden, he tweeted:

My purpose is not to identify the mangled economics and the doublespeaking up of the tax surveillance state implied by Russel’s propaganda that tax is not the burden it is. Other commentators have done that aptly enough.

University of Canterbury lecturer, Eric Crampton, put Russel straight on the facts:

“I was a bit surprised that a member of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, and an MP sometimes suggested as a future Finance Minister, seemed utterly unfamiliar with a piece of economic jargon familiar to every intermediate-level student of economics," Dr Eric Crampton tells NBR ONLINE.

"Where Russel Norman tweeted that only “right wing” economists refer to the “burden of taxation”, it’s the standard term used in pretty much every public finance textbook, left or right, to describe the cost of taxation," Dr Crampton says.

On Kiwiblog David Farrar found the writing tool of tone, born of actual emotion, tied to historical analysis:

Again I’m horrified that we may have a senior economic minister in a future government who does not think taxation is a burden on hard working New Zealanders who fund the tax system. It reflects a neo-marxist view I guess that all income is really the property of the state’s, and we should be grateful they allow us to keep some of it.

Casting the net offshore, Tibor Machan notes how taxation, and the invasive tax surveillance state it rests on, is the opposite of civilised:

The first step is to acknowledge, unapologetically, that the institution of taxation is not a civilized but a barbaric method to fund anything, because it amounts to nothing less than outright extortion, a gross violation of human liberty.

Despite Crampton, Farrar, and Machan's valid points, I wish to indicate something more ominous about this tweet. Namely, Russel wasn’t tweeting on the level of economics, but on the level of a symbolism consistent with Green Party philosophy: economists and statisticians tend to think only in straight lines and are hopeless at nuance, so the gentlemen above missed the point of Russel’s tweet entirely. Worse, the purpose of this post is to examine how, when dealt with on its own terms, this tweet becomes quite terrifying as it is the viewpoint that informs our (un)civil service; most certainly that powerful department which can raid without warrant, Inland Revenue. Because of this, Russel’s emotive assumption operating at the heart of our bureaucracies governs our lives and robs us of our liberty under every Labour-led and National-led government. Within this framework, the writers quoted above, my blog, by exposing taxation as the burden it is, we are all committing thought crimes. Proving this society voted us by a tyranny of the majority is far from the free society the ANZACs were fighting for.

In his tweet Russel employs the doublespeak of a vicious, pervasive tax surveillance state as our erstwhile friend, at the same time as he cynically gives his time publicly speaking out against government spying on us by means of the GCSB Act and TICS. This is the Left contradiction, and hypocrisy, that has undone us all. On one brass knuckled fist championing the tax surveillance state setup solely to harry and steal the effort of its own citizens in the name of redistribution, while on another decrying the surveillance state set up to protect us all from the harm of dreary beaded bearded men. And he's right on the latter: TICS and the GCSB Act are appalling invasions of our lives by the Fortress of Legislation, but more so is the blind eye Russel turns to the coercive state required for the tax take. Unsurprisingly aping his doublespeak ethos, IRD also use such slippery language, and do so to inappropriately politicise themselves. Take, for instance, the latest issue of their monthly publication Community Wise: the very name of which is inseparable from the deceit at the black heart of Russel's comment. Indeed, this edition of Community Wise demonstrates better than anything I can write, just how barbaric Russel’s civilised society is: proven by placing it in the context of a relevant literature.

Although before that, completing the circle of this post back to my opening paragraph and the time I did. From memory the time involved was just two weeks, and on the greater part of three decades ago; that time spent on the anonymous correspondence desk(s) of IRD, Christchurch. I believe that was the start of my education toward need of a cooperative, voluntary liberty, and knowledge of how far our society had voted itself from it.

You’d be surprised the amount of anonymous correspondence the department receives, noting no one grasses on someone they don’t know or who means nothing to them. Employees against their bosses was the biggest grouping, but then friends – well, not really, are they – snitching on friends, and some which were – despite their anonymity – obviously family dumping on family. It was so long ago I can’t remember the exact process; obviously those letters ended up with the investigators, now called ‘Community Compliance Officers – that over-used word, community, as brain washing again, on the assumption we are children. And how many anonymous accusations were true, how many false, I have no idea, but it’s no big leap of imagination to understand that what motivated most of the correspondence was little to do with the tax take.

How have we forgotten that reporting the thought crimes of one’s enemies, friends and family, to be dealt to by the machine of state, is a central motif of every surveillance state? Quoting an earlier post of mine, which has become one of my most popular over time, Orwell covered this aspect of the Big Brother state in his novel 1984:

"Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it… All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children." 

In that post I was comparing that passage to one from the Telegraph in which children in the UK were being urged to dob in tax cheats:

School children are being encouraged by HM Revenue and Customs to tell their teachers if they know of anyone "in their local area" who is not paying their fair share of tax … One module, headlined “tax responsibilities of a good citizen”, aims to help teenagers “understand the obligations if being a good citizen and discuss what should happen to those who are not prepared to work under such obligations”. One lesson plan – targeted at 14 to 16 year olds … continues: “Show class the remaining factfile slides on tax evasion. What do students think of those who refuse to pay tax … ? “Can they think of any example they may have heard of in their local area?”

My point then was as follows:

Look at the ‘good citizens’ these children are taught to be in our schools, with all these ‘obligations’ to each other. And so strong is the programming, that I am confident more than ninety percent of those reading this would feel, deep down, that they have to agree with the teachers’ ethic here, with what this tax course in the schools is founded on: that self-sacrifice for the common good, is a noble thing, and the needs of others are what social democracies must hold at their centre. This is what New Zealand Socialist commentator, Chris - The Fist - Trotter forces on us.

But it’s a magic trick, an illusion, that’s been performed in our minds by Gramsci, a linguistic sleight of hand, all the more evil because it initially appeals to our 'better natures'. All we need do to understand it is change the focus, the narrative point of view, and see what it really says, which is that for you to live your life, it is acceptable that the lives of others, total strangers, be sacrificed to you, their pursuit of happiness destroyed for you, and that the state will initiate force to back you up in this, and mince up the livelihoods, take away the privacy and freedom, of those who will not bow down to your need. And part of being a good citizen, now, is for you to dob these people in, so they can be dealt to.

Free men know that the civilised society is not based on such an extinguishment of life, but founded on a bed-rock of the non-initiation of force, particularly the state against the people, and on each individual being responsible for themselves, and self-reliant. That a civilised society works on the natural love and affection between families and loved ones, on compassion and charity freely given for strangers, and on voluntarism.

So these are not ‘good citizens’ being trained in this course, on their social obligations; just as in the Orwell quote, these are spies, these truly are little savages. When I went to school, at the age of these children, William Golding’s frightening novel, Lord of the Flies, was on the curriculum. Just over thirty years later, the curriculum has been based on it.

Developing this theme from the fictional world of Orwell, to the real nightmare of the surveillance state, over March of 2009 I read the ‘rediscovered’ novel, published in 1947, Alone in Berlin, written by Hans Fallada.


Its pared back prose was a harrowing read; snippets of this Guardian review suffice to make the point important to me:

According to the forward to the first German edition, the novel follows "in its broad lines" the Gestapo files on the illegal activities of an actual Berlin working-class couple, Otto and Elise Hampel. Originally Nazi supporters, on the death of their son in France in 1940 they began to deposit postcards and some 200 written leaflets in post-boxes and stairwells around their home district, Berlin-Wedding. They were betrayed, arrested on 20 October 1942, sentenced to death by the People's Court and executed in Plötzensee prison the following April.

To bring life to these facts, Fallada assembles a staff of vivid low-life characters, stoolies, thieves and whores, Nazi veterans in a haze of drink, as well as ordinary working-people trying to put food on the table. Here is the resistance of the small man, perilous, disorganised, irresponsible, perverse, brave and almost wholly futile. As the Gestapo Inspector Escherich muses: "There were more urgent and important cases. A madman ... did nothing but send Minister Goebbels daily letters that were crude, and often pornographic in nature. Well, Inspector Escherich was in luck, he had managed to solve the 'Filth' case within three months."

In the foreword, Fallada (or his editor) defends the brutality of the book on the grounds that it takes place "among opponents of the regime and their persecutors, where quite a few came to grief". This dialectic of persecutor and persecuted is Fallada's most profound contribution. Of the 276 postcards and eight letters deposited by the Quangels over two years, all but 18 are handed straight in to the Gestapo where they destroy one life and two careers and sow chaos in an arbitrary and unamanageable organisation.

So from Fallada back to IRD’s Community Wise of this month, I simply want to point out that two of the articles on being a good community-minded citizen, fit comfortably – albeit uncomfortably for us – into this sordid literature of tyranny.

If you know or suspect an individual or business is cheating the tax system or committing tax fraud, you can tell us about it anonymously.

Anyone who doesn't pay their tax isn't paying for their [fair] share of the services we all use.

And in the same issue, by the by, another prevalent feature of any surveillance state in which all citizens must be tracked from birth:

Applying for an IRD number for a baby has just become easier.

Since July, a new joined-up service from Inland Revenue and the Department of Internal Affairs means parents can apply for an IRD number for their new baby by simply ticking a box, and supplying a small amount of extra information, on the Birth Registration form.


Nearly 95% of parents of newborn children have chosen to apply for an IRD number for their baby when they register the birth - that's more than 2,200 applications already since 1 July.

There is no longer privacy from the state, and that begins from birth as we feed our babies directly from the womb into its ruthless machinery, to have their lives run by dictate. And as we learned over just this month our babies are to be educated by the teachers of the PPTA to ostracise the children of charter schools as enemies of the state, now we find to be a good citizen is to report on the thought crimes of our nearest and dearest, or people we hate, to Inland Revenue.

How unutterably depressing. The snitch society made possible only by the power of a police state to punish victimless crimes.

This and the fact I feel as ever I must draw the attention of those IRD Community Officers who will read this post as they routinely spy on this blog (see Update 1), as they do social media – are you happy with that? - to my disclaimer at bottom of this page: please. I pay my tax, I'm no martyr.

Lastly, for that Arrogance of Altruists known as the Left politick no doubt getting all highbrow and sniffily looking down their big busy body noses at my employ of the Godwin, note carefully what I am, and am not, saying here.

Am I saying this is Nazi Germany? No.

Am I saying this is the East Berlin of that chilling movie, The Lives of Others? No. Well, not quite, despite the efforts of NSA and our GCSB.

No, I'm merely saying this is New Zealand, and the state has this month put out a publication asking good citizens to dob their mates in for punishment because their thinking isn't in line with the compassionate heart of the ruthless state. And when this is placed in the context of a relevant literature that tells us about ourselves, it tells us of an alarming portent about ourselves. This dystopia I want little part of, yet am forced to fund by the tax surveillance state, in which there is no trace left of the voluntary, free society. Russel Norman's tweet was no mistake: his is the premise that forms the bedrock of our brute bureaucracy. From the literature that ethos is, ‘Russel will force you to care for your fellow man, elsewise he will have the machine of state crush you like the insignificant bug the individual is to his hive mind.’ None of us are free in Russel’s world; none of us are voluntary actors with volition: we are all, rather, beasts of burden. And as Daniel Horowitz points out, in the absence of a classical liberalism, long destroyed by the Left politick, Russel’s statism will always destroy, slowly and then quickly, our liberty, and with that everything the Free West once symbolised:

“We must understand that there is an imbalance of power in the political system of any democracy in that the forces of statism have an innate advantage over the defenders of freedom. It takes but one legislative or administrative victory for statism to succeed in guiding society on an indelible path towards dependency. We cannot perpetuate the free-market, but we can perpetuate statism by creating inveterate dependency constituencies. Statism enjoys the inherent advantage of self-perpetuation through its own pernicious activities that engender a continued need for the government programs.”

And where once there was a contrarian literature that spoke against such tyranny, at great cost to the individuals who wrote for liberty, there is no longer.

Footnote 1:

Over the 2014 year more than 23,000 New Zealanders' dobbed in their 'friends', relatives, employers and associates to be dealt to by IRD. In every case the victim would have had their private life destroyed, their every private receipt, purchase, bank and credit card transaction analysed and notated by government bureaucrats, forced into compulsory interrogations where they had no right to remain silent, and unlike a murder or rape suspect, the burden of proof was loaded against them. Indubitably, some will have been bankrupted. This is the snitch society.


  1. I've been following your posts for a while and noticed that recently your posts have been increasingly mentioning voluntary societies. That's great, as a voluntaryist myself I can completely understand.
    How does this stand with your minarchist position? This isn't a troll, I'm genuinely interested.

    1. Hi Gekko

      Thanks for reading my blog, and I certainly wouldn't take your comment as a troll, because I understand the contradiction you're implying on my thinking from an anarchist point of view.

      Seem to remember your handle from somewhere; Frog Blog?

      Anyway, the voluntary society versus minarchy.

      I can't honestly resolve this for you because I can't reconcile the contradiction for myself.

      Over time as I read and experience life I change. This blog shows well the changes that are occurring in my thinking on some issues; that is why you're seeing the increasing use of the 'voluntary society' meme. You probably don't realise this is the second blog of this name after the first got hacked (or some such, I never quite figured out what happened, there's currently a science blog operating under my old URL :) ) When I first set the blog up I was straight out Libertarian, and still don't relinquish the tag, but I would now put myself somewhere in that little part of the line between libertarian and anarcho-capitalist. I wouldn't be surprised if some of my latter posts even contradicted some small parts of earlier posts, and I have no doubt they will continue into the future more toward an anarchist-capitalist position.

      For now, I hold minarchy - albeit requiring a small (excessively small) state, and no politicians, etc - is consistent with a voluntary society based on a free market. I view laissez-faire free markets as the economic bedrock of a cooperative society, and that the philosophy and economics of a free society are indivisible. A minarchist state is only there to police the non-initiation of force and fraud principle and uphold individual property rights, vis a vis a criminal justice system to stop aggressors, plus a civil system to enforce contract. I don't see how an open market can run without contract and property rights.

      But at the same time I no longer decry the anarchist vision of the completely stateless society: it's hugely attractive; especially so the more party political viciousness and pettiness I witness.

      I suspect the main issue still tying me to minarchism is my belief that intellectual property is a bona fide property right, and reason will not allow me to ever be in the anarchist camp on that one. Too many seem to confuse the changing world of tech that makes it so easy to copy, which may well force artists to find new revenue streams, with the principle that they shouldn't have to: they should be able to live by the products of their mind, as a famous woman once said ;)

      Hope you keep reading Gekko. And keep pointing out the contradictions. They're important.

    2. One important point missed from the above given the central tenet of my blog: a minarchy would only be funded by a voluntary payment, not the tax state.

      To those who would say this is naive, my rejoinder is simply that of course I would voluntarily pay for the minarchy for exactly the same reason as I currently voluntarily pay insurance.

    3. Note to self: must re-read some Ursula K. Le Guin.

  2. Hi Mark

    Thanks for an excellent and honest reply. I've found it interesting watch others who, like myself, have found themselves moving further towards anarchy/voluntarism in an attempt to resolve ideological conflict. Once I got through the pain barrier it isn't so bad and I wondered if your situation was taking a similar route. Or a minarchist on the anarchic end of the spectrum perhaps? :-)

    I agree about state viciousness, it's a shame so few others see if for what it really is. I've lost count of the number of times I've been name-called, laughed at or been verbally abused for the temerity to suggest that taxation is coercive and therefore wrong, regardless of how noble you may believe the ends to be.

    Anyway thanks for an interesting and entertaining blog - it's one of the few I take the time to read these days as many of the others are full of noise or nonsense that life is too short for. Yours resonates with many of my own feelings, although we'll continue to disagree on the minimal state and IP issues :-) I know blogging is time consuming (I gave up a long time back) so I appreciate your taking the time to post.

    As for the handle, I've been commenting and no doubt trying to stir up trouble for a long time now, so you'e probably seen the name around. Quite possibly on Frogblog but that would've been a very long time back as Frogblog is the kind of mud pit that I no longer choose to wallow in , even for rabble rousing purposes.

    1. Yeah, that pain barrier is 'the thing'.

      Cheers for reading; it's great to have you here. Albeit my posts have to slow down for the next five or six months.

  3. The film "My beautiful Laundrette' can be read as a socialist-business/freemarket fable for those who can see it.