Gregory Sams
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17. Victimless Crimes

IN Bolivia, a clown known only as "Mr Twister" has been threatened with prison for refusing to promise a Santa Cruz court that he would not repeat his offence. Mr Twister was charged with repeatedly feeding the parking meters of complete strangers.

Report in the Guardian, June 96
A vast amount of effort and resources is expended trying to prevent members of the public from doing things that can harm no one but themselves, and probably do not even do that. In most cases the prohibition is against doing something that may carry a slight risk of harm. In fact, tens of thousands of lives are actually damaged, just in order to stop people from willingly exposing themselves to possible danger or damage through drug use, dangerous sports, unusual sex, illegal parties, alternative medicines, or other forms of activity not sanctioned by the state. The state has various ways to protect us from exposing ourselves to things that they think could somehow harm us. They can take our money away in fines, confiscate our property, put us in jail, get us fired or liquidate our business. Hell...there are even situations where they can kill you to protect you from yourself. Even the right to take your own life is an offence in most parts of the world.* We can see from this alone that the state views our very lives as somehow belonging to it and not to us.

*I have this mad picture in my mind of a crouching policeman, shouting: "Don't jump or I'll shoot!" to some would-be suicide at the edge of the cliff top.

The state, in the interests of governing the nation, has no right whatsoever to pass laws supposedly protecting us from ourselves. Their basic remit for existence is to protect us from others who would seek to attack us, or steal the property we have fairly earned through our own endeavours. In fact, the state that should protect us now makes the largest attack on our property of all - the institutionalized theft of approximately half of the value we add to creation every year (see Money's Real Dimension). Much of this stolen wealth is then turned against us - literally used to attack us when we choose to explore or do or witness or create things that are a threat to no one but perhaps ourselves.

Numerous scientific studies over several decades have shown cannabis use itself to be harmless. In centuries of usage, there has not been a death laid at the door of this innocuous drug. Yet thousands are arrested and processed at great expense through courts and prisons for indulging in this happier and safer alternative to alcohol. The rapid growth in prison building in both America and Britain is fuelled by drug cases - an attack by the state on its own citizens. Some 60% of the prisoners in U.S. Federal jails are there for drug offences, which are usually non-violent. At the moment one-fourth of all the young black men in America are either in prison or on parole. Jailing and confiscating the property of citizens who like to puff cannabis or take other drugs neither benefits their lives nor serves any need of society.
Drug Prisoners as Percentage of Total Prisoners

People have been imprisoned, harassed and had their children taken into state care as a result of rejecting the official educational system approved by the state. Presumably the future of their children, as productive members of society, might be jeopardized if the state did not legislate just what they should all learn. Why should the state treat this as such a threat? It could be argued that the official educational system, with its centrally standardized curricula, does not always set a hard example to beat. Educational standards in countries such as England and the United States are regularly trounced by so-called third world countries. Our own culture is filled with stories of peasants and uneducated immigrants who ended up magnates and still manage to do so today. The founder of the worldwide Holiday Inn hotel chain, who left school when he was thirteen, was fond of quipping: "When you ain't got no education you gotta fall back on your brains." His special skill was knowing where to place a new hotel - not something that had been covered in his schooling. The state has come to see itself as more responsible for your child than you. And if they decide you are not being a good enough parent then they, the ultimate parent, will step in and take over, forcibly removing children from "unfit" parents. Though we read daily of the abuse and assaults upon children in state-run homes and of their magnetic attraction for paedophiles, these state supported abusers of children are rarely raided by the social services. The cases only seem to come to light after many years of bureaucratic obstructions and cover-ups; then broad inquiries are held, often without any prosecution of the perpetrators.

Sex, our primary means of producing children, is another arena in which the state thinks it necessary to protect us from danger. Whether in print, film, the market, or the bedrooms of consenting adults, sex is regulated the world over by laws deemed to be for our own good. Many authors have been jailed and censured for writing about the joys of the basic mechanism maintaining the survival of our species. A similar fate has met publishers, film-makers and performers seeking to include sex in their subject matter. Conversely, those human acts that damage our species can be freely written about, or portrayed in print or films graphically depicting murder, injury and destruction. What is so wrong with sex, that the depiction of it in print or film must be so controlled by law? It is curious that "sex and violence" are so often joined together when people are in a condemning mood. - considering the opposite ends of the spectrum at which they exist.

Across the world, there still exist vast volumes of law and regulation dictating what consenting adults may do, for pleasure, within the privacy of their own homes. Some of these consenting adults may have sex with those of the same gender, use orifices that are prohibited by law from being pleasure receptacles or even include painful and strange activity. Some of the stranger sexual practices may have been caused by the repression of more "natural" tendencies earlier in life. Must we really have a government legislating what is acceptable for people to do with their own bodies, for their own pleasure? If society or a local culture chooses to shun or reject people because of their chosen lifestyle or sexual tendencies then it will. But we should not endure a situation in which the state is empowered to harass and imprison such people - or indeed legislate their mandatory acceptance. The natural evolution of society should be relied upon to eventually accept, or adapt, that which is created from within its own dynamic.

We have nothing to fear from those who seek to live their own livesoutside whatever the currently legislated norms of society are. If someone's choice is to live in a home-made tent in the woods without the benefit (and ecological cost) of hot and cold running water, central heating and flushing toilet, then who are we or the state, to say that this constitutes an illegal dwelling and to treat them like criminals? The faulty thinking process that guides the state when regulating the status quo goes something like this: "But imagine what would happen if everybody did this - it would be total chaos."* They fail to realize that most people like toilets and television, plumbing, power and many of the other conveniences of life. Everybody is not going to run out and live in a tree or a tent on common ground if they stop arresting and harassing anyone who does. But those who did so of choice would certainly reduce their need for state assistance, housing stock, and ever more infrastructure.

*The actual words uttered to this author in 1991, when a beautifully painted fractal pavement appeared in front of my Strange Attractions shop devoted to chaos theory. The council team were there within two days to dig it all up and put new grey paving down. I queried the why of it with the local bureaucrat in charge, and this is what he said verbatim, whilst complimenting us on the work. Meanwhile two burnt out abandoned cars littered the same road for two months, endangering children and looking pretty ugly. I contemplated starting a "terrorist" group after this which would have gone out in the dead of night to paint pretty pictures around dangerous potholes that needed filling.

There are countless examples of the state's obsession with our private lives and businesses and how we live them and run them. At the core of it all is the assumption that the state knows best: that given the resources (your resources), they are better able to direct your life than you are. Of course, since all the state knows is the status quo, the bulk of its regulation will be directed at maintaining their view of what the current culture constitutes. Many of those whom society now views as cultural heroes - the great artists, thinkers, and inventors of history - were, in their day, imprisoned, ridiculed and harassed.

In addition to all the laws that supposedly protect us from ourselves or others, we have a growing mountain of laws designed to mandate our compliance with government demands. There is no real victim involved in these crimes, and they have grown most of all in the U.S.A. The forfeiture laws of America, and now the UK, were initially brought in to fight "the drug menace" and are increasingly being extended to many other areas deemed criminal. The first extension was into banking where all cash transactions above a thousand dollars or so are classed as suspicious, with clerks and employees earning rewards by reporting such transactions. The owner of the money then risks having it forfeited - until and unless they can produce the records proving that their money arose from a legitimate, tax-paid transaction. An immigrant community leader, returning to Vietnam, her native country with some $10,000 of locally collected charitable contributions had it seized at L.A. airport and suffered a further fine for non-completion of a simple reporting form. There was no suggestion that other laws were broken, or that anything immoral was involved. Forfeiture law was most recently applied to individually practicing doctors in the U.S., accelerating the move by doctors from private practice to health companies. It is now deemed a criminal offence to make any clerical error in a patient's records, such as a wrong date or diagnosis code. Though the law was ostensibly brought in to help prevent fraud against insurance companies, there is no need for the error to have any fraudulent or medical consequences. During the law's first year of operation, in 1997, over $1 Billion in assets was taken by the government from doctors who had neither had a trial nor been proved to have done anything wrong.

The demands for compliance with tax laws are based upon the flimsy premise that by not paying the state its demands, you are somehow stealing from the other good citizens who do pay their fealty. But the state must be fed so we can understand why this class of crime is so covered in law. But in America today, simple businessmen increasingly face jail and heavy fines for failing for return forms that are solely intended for statistical purposes. Bizarre as it might seem to anyone who has not yet read this far, much of today's new legislation in "the land of the free" seems to be geared towards finding more ways to steal people's money from them and put them in jail.

As we have seen, an increasing amount of today's law is not concerned with our protection at all, but with our conformity to government regulations and permitted behaviour. I suggest that the ratio between these two types of laws could be used as an indicator of the degree to which any given state has tipped towards being termed "totalitarian."

This shift in attitudes towards the function of state policing of society is reflected in the changed terminology for police in the U.S.A. They no longer refer to themselves as "peace officers" since this is a misnomer. They more accurately call themselves "law-enforcement officers," which makes more sense when we consider that much of their involves the forceful and often violent interruption of otherwise quite peaceful activity.
The whole concept of the victimless crime is at the heart of the breakdown of "law and order" so lamented by both citizens and politicians. Vast sums are spent, and armies of bureaucrats and police maintained, to ensure that we comply with needless regulations, primarily designed to keep things as the government would like them - regulations which block the natural evolution of our species. Of course these resources should be spent to stop real crime and its causes, but as long as the state is running things it will be in the long term interest of the prison service to have more prisons and of the police to have more crime.
INCARCERATION RATES around the world

Country Inmates per
100,000
population
Russia 690 **
United States519 *
Ukraine 390 **
South Africa368 *
Singapore229 *
Romania 200 **
Hong Kong179 *
England 93 *
France 84 *
Germany80 *
Turkey 80 **
Ireland55 **
Japan 36 *
Cambodia 26 **
Phillipines26 **
India 24 * and **


* Associated Press, Sept 12, 1994.

** 1995, Americans Behind Bars: U.S. and International Use of Incarceration


After viewing the above figures, it becomes more apparent why the U.S.A. often paints itself in the image of the global policeman. Most aid money and commercial permits require that recipients and trade partners enforce various laws designed to spread a global morality moulded on "the American way." It reminds us of the arrogance of Christian missionaries putting clothes on natives lest they be corrupted by their nakedness. From the numbers above, it would seem there is good potential for the export of prison technology to all those countries less diligent at enforcing their laws. There must be a few million chillum-smoking sadhus breaking cannabis laws in India alone. The U.S.A. and UK now take pride in training police and paramilitary all over the world in the newest techniques of civilian surveillance and crowd control.
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