Strike The Root

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

How to Deal With Government Bureaucrats by Turning Them Into Short-Term Freedom Fighters

 by Jack Rain

About two years ago, I discovered a method to deal with government bureaucrats, so that minor government regulations have ceased to be a problem in my life.  The method works so well that there is no way you will be able to appreciate its beauty until you try it for yourself.

I will first explain the method on a theoretical level and then give you two examples of how I actually applied the method.

You should know that I have a very strong personality and can often get my way when I insist. Inevitably, though, I have had most difficulty in getting around silly government regulations when a bureaucrat is staring me in the face with no intention of budging, regardless how ridiculous the regulation. Now when I bump into one of these bureaucrats, I use this new method with quite remarkable results.

The first step when I am in this type of situation is to state to the bureaucrat in a very friendly but business-like tone that "I am in a jam." Of course, I am in the jam because of a stupid government regulation and the bureaucrat in front of me trying to enforce the regulation, but I simply leave it at "I am in a jam," without going into a theoretical discussion of, say, Hans-Hermann Hoppe's analysis of the failures of the state [see The First Great Book of the 21st Century].

I then, as quickly and as briefly as possible, state the absurdity of what would happen if the regulation is enforced in the current situation.

I then state, "I don't think the legislators meant for the regulation to apply in this situation." Of course, if the legislators were honorable men and really understood Hoppe's critique of government, they wouldn't have enacted the legislation for my situation or for any other situation. But again, I leave this second part out.  I am not trying to win the entire anarchist debate here, I am trying to take one very small step toward more freedom--my freedom--against the regulation and the bureaucrat in front of me.

I then state, "I know you have the power and authority to find a solution to this problem." Now I know this bureaucrat has the power to find a solution because he can simply ignore the regulation and become a short-term freedom fighter against the oppressive state, and I always authorize everyone anywhere to become true freedom fighters if they want to, so the authorization is also there.

Now this is the remarkable point. I suspect that few people, in arguing with this bureaucrat in the past, have told him he has power. More than likely, arguments have gone as follows: "That's a stupid regulation" or "This is ridiculous and I won't stand for it." In fact, that was my old method. But by telling the bureaucrat he has power, somehow all government rules and regulations become secondary, and I have magically authorized him to exercise his power to be a freedom fighter on my behalf. And it has worked every time I have remembered to use it over the last two years!

Once I tell him he has the power and authority, I stay quiet except for saying just above a whisper every once and while, "Come on, I know you have the power and authority."

Here are two examples.

I was recently visiting Chicago and was at the restaurant of a friend. Until recently, my friend's restaurant had two entrances, one on a side street and one on the main street, where all the traffic is. But the owners of the building redesigned the entrances so that now my friend's restaurant only has the side entrance.

The side entrance is obviously not as visible to passersby as the old main entrance, so my friend had a sidewalk sign (about 36" high) designed that described his restaurant, with an arrow pointing to the direction of the new entrance. He also chained the sign to a pole so that the sign wouldn't be stolen. It's a pretty cool sign.

All was fine until a Chicago city sidewalk inspector walked into the restaurant on a day when I was enjoying conversation with my restaurateur friend. The inspector told my friend that he couldn't have the sign chained to the pole. The sign itself was no problem. It was the chain, which was barely visible and basically of no hindrance to anyone, that the inspector had his eye on. The chain was barely long enough for anyone to notice, never mind be a hazard of some kind. There was less than two inches between the pole and the sign, so no one was going to trip over the chain, either.

Now my friend reacted the way I used to in the old days. First he tried logic. He told the inspector that he was afraid the sign was going to be stolen. He then told the inspector the regulation was ridiculous and, well, you get the picture. My friend wasn't getting anywhere.

I realized this was certainly a time when the inspector needed to be converted into a short-term freedom fighter. I signaled my friend to be silent for a minute. I then looked at the inspector and said, "You know, we are in quite a jam here. The chain isn't bothering anyone. If the chain is off, someone could steal the sign. I'm sure this regulation wasn't instituted to facilitate the theft of signs in Chicago. Now I know you have the power and the authority to find a solution. What's the solution? And very delicately, I added again, "Come on I know you have the power to find a solution." Then silence.

The silence is important here. I think the bureaucrat is actually absorbing the fact that he has power. Just above a whisper, I said again, "I know you have the power." Then bingo, the bureaucrat told us the sign could stay chained but would have to be taken in after business hours.

Solution found! My friend takes the sign in every night anyway, as the inspector was probably aware. But no need to argue here. It was just one small step for more freedom against government oppression.

The second situation also took place in Chicago. I wear contacts, the kind where I put in a new pair each day and throw away the old pair. For my trip to Chicago, I neglected to pack my daily contacts. I had one emergency pair in my briefcase, but as I am supposed to wear a new pair daily, they obviously wouldn't be sufficient to last my entire two week stay in Chicago.

So I walked into an eyecare center and told them of my situation. The first person I spoke with told me I needed a prescription, despite the fact that I had the power numbers from the side packaging on the emergency pair I had brought with me. I told them I would be in Chicago for only two weeks, knew the lens powers I needed and really did not want to go through another eye examination in a city where I was staying for all of two weeks. She referred me to the manager of the store.

I knew the manager would be a problem immediately. She came out and very forcefully told me, "We cannot give you any lenses without a prescription. It is Illinois state law."

Then it dawned on me: Although she wasn't a government employee, she certainly was acting as an agent of the state, and maybe I could turn her into a freedom fighter.

So I told her, "I am in a jam. I forgot my lenses at home. I know my prescription. I travel a lot and it makes no sense for me to have to get an eye exam if I forget to pack my lenses. I know the regulators did not intend the regulation for this situation when I know the power of the contacts I need. I know you have the power and authority to find a solution." Then, of course, I was quiet. Then after a short while, just above a whisper, in a kind of hope and anticipation voice, I said, "I know you have the power and authority." She looked at me, smiled and said, "I can give you some trial lenses." Solution found. Another small step for freedom.

This method seems to never fail, and while the obvious immediate benefit is to remove a minor bureaucratic regulation, I think it also may have a longer term impact in some cases. It teaches bureaucrats and their agents that they do have power to ignore the state. Perhaps down the road in some other situation, they will remember that they have the power and authorization to try freedom from regulation against some other stupid regulation.

So I urge you to use this method whenever the situation applies. And I would love to hear from you about how this method works for you. Good luck.


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June 11, 2002

Jack Rain is a traveler and observer of world events.

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