The Prize

I’ve been toying with the idea of establishing a prize. There’s no name for it yet, although The Hein Prize has a nice ring to it. It would be awarded to that citizen who, in response to his query of some bureaucrat or elected official, received a clear, concise, and accurate answer. I guess maybe a million bux would be a satisfactory amount, but the size of the prize is of little concern, since the chance of my having to award it is nil.

A Congressperson — for example — can respond to a constituent’s request for information in various ways. "Go away and don’t bother me," for instance, or "I don’t know and don’t care." Such responses might diminish the elected one’s chances of re-election, however, so don’t expect to receive them. How about "Thank you for writing. I am always glad to hear from my constituents. Please feel free to write again if you have any further questions." That is infinitely more polite than the first two choices, while conveying exactly the same amount of information: nothing. A remarkably candid official, not running for re-election, might simply say, "If I told you the truth, they’d kill me." Refreshingly honest, but not very helpful, except to confirm your suspicion that something is very, very wrong.

A Congressman, we’re always told, is our representative in government. He stands for us. Does that mean he believes what we believe, and works to achieve our objectives? If we don’t know, and can’t find out, what he believes, how do we know he’s representing us, and working for us?

Bureaucrats are another matter. They are not elected, and so it cannot be said that they are to represent us. They are, however, public servants. Indeed, they love to refer to their lives as being spent in "public service," which means, if words still have any meaning, that we are their masters. Can the servant ignore the master’s request? Oh, sure. All the time.

If you could bring yourself to not take politics too seriously, you could have a lot of fun writing to various elected and un-elected public servants, and having a good laugh at their non-answers. For example: when I received notice of my home’s re-assessment for property tax purposes, I wrote the assessor’s office and asked if the assessment, quoted in dollars, was made in terms of dollars of silver, gold, platinum (all of which our mint is currently producing, and all of which are legal tender), "dollars" of credit — i.e., totally imaginary dollars, or the base-metal tokens also labeled "dollar." I said that I assumed that the assessment was made in accordance with the law, and the law in Missouri makes only the silver coins of the United States a legal tender. Could the assessor make assessments in terms of something other than legal tender in this state? If so, pursuant to what law? Well, the answer is just what you might imagine. Yes, said the assessor, the law does govern his activities, and if I wished to appeal my assessment I could obtain the necessary forms from the officials who hear such appeals. Thanks for writing.

A few years ago, I (and thousands of others) learned of a portion of the Code of Federal Regulations dealing with income taxes, which reads, "The taxpayer’s taxable income from sources within or without the United States will be determined under the rules of Secs. 1.861—8 through 1.861—14T for determining taxable income from sources within the United States." (26 CFR 1.863—1©) Remarkably, when you utilize those sections to determine taxable income, it turns out to be zero in almost all cases. How can this be? Well, why not write to the officials who administer the tax laws and find out? Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have done just that, asking whether these rules, which are to be used to determine taxable income, are, in fact, to be used to determine taxable income. No one has received an answer. That is not amusing; it is sinister. Indeed, it is almost certainly a felony to remain silent about a matter involving federal legislation, and by so doing, to mislead or deceive.

Our public "servants" have become so secure in their power, and contemptuous of the sovereigns whom they "serve," that they can simply ignore us when they choose to do so. Indeed, when presented with questions which they cannot, or dare not, answer truthfully, they present, as defense, a good offense. Someone seeking to understand if the regulations cited above are to be used as it would certainly seem they are to be used, might receive, in lieu of an answer, a warning about the constitutionality of the tax, and the danger of being mislead into illegality by nefarious individuals offering bogus tax shelters. Very true, but totally irrelevant. A veiled threat in response to a reasonable question.

The government expresses grave concern about the threat of terrorism, as well it might. Of course, the terrorism publicly referred to is always from nasty Arabs, or deranged and deluded Americans. Behind the scenes, however, our public officials may be concerned with something quite domestic, and not limited to kooks or fanatics. What are a people to do who, if not lied to, are ignored? How can there be a redress of grievances, when the government refuses to hear the aggrieved? If our rulers are not concerned about the smoldering resentment among the citizens, they had better wake up and smell the brimstone. They are nothing without us; we are everything without them. We outnumber them, and produce everything. They are few and produce nothing. Even a minority of Americans who decided to sit on their hands, not producing anything, or paying anything, until their questions were answered, could bring about a revolution without resorting to the bombs and bullets of terrorists. If the drones are not worried about such domestic, non-violent "terrorism," they had better be!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

Paul Hein Archives

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts