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Authoritarianism is Self-Defeating

Freds Rivertown Alehouse
Published:2010-08-29 Opinion
Authoritarianism is Self-Defeating    Print Snohomish Times    
Authoritarianism is Self-Defeating

by Kevin Carson
I got a (simultaneously horrifying and amusing) news item in the latest U.S. Pirate Party newsletter, about a new program in Cleveland to monitor recyclable bins with RFID chips ("Privacy Trashed," August 24).

"This whole 'chipping' of garbage cans began in England and now it is spreading to our shores. Basically, they're using RFID (radio frequency indentification) chips to ensure that people are recycling. The chips monitor how many times a recyclable container is brought to the curb. If you haven't brought out your recycle bin in awhile, expect to have your trash rooted through."

This is just another example of the utter stupidity of the typical lawmaker's mindset. It's like it literally never occurred to them that people might try to circumvent laws.

A good example is the sign on the gas pump: "The penalty for stealing gas is loss of your driver's license. If you steal gas, this could be the last time you drive." So I'm not afraid to steal gas -- but I'm TERRIFIED of driving without a license. Do these Barney Fifes even think, or do they just assume that passing "a law" on paper will have some magical effect on reality?

Any kid who ever squeezed the toothpaste tube and wet his toothbrush to look like he'd brushed his teeth could figure out how to thwart Cleveland's idiotic recycling program.

I believe strongly in recycling, and normally separate all my recyclables into the bin. But if this RFID program were implemented where I live, I'd STOP recycling. I'd just carry the empty bin out to the curb and bring it back once a week to fool Big Brother, and then I'd cram the trash cans with recyclables.

I recall a similar high-tech handwashing verification system in the news about ten years ago, that used embedded chips in name badges to check if employees had gone near the sink or turned on the water after using the toilet. As with the recyclable bin, any kid who ever faked brushing his teeth could easily thwart this. And even though I'm normally quite fastidious about washing my hands, I'd be sorely tempted to whiz on them and fake a handwash just to prove to myself that management's smug confidence in their own authority over me was unwarranted.

As it is, I frequently leave notes on those "Employees Must Wash Hands" signs: "How do you plan to enforce this?" My goal is not only to undermine the authority of anonymous sign writers in the eyes of the public, but to make management look ridiculous and ineffectual in the eyes of workers and get them thinking in general terms about how much of management's authority is unenforceable. And if I can make management paranoid that their authority's held in contempt, I've hit the trifecta.

This is one of the ways that authoritarianism, and statism in particular, defeats itself. It really seems never to have occurred to these smothering schoolmarms that there's a nontrivial minority of the population (and I'm one of them) that takes such intrusive attempts at micromanagement, and our would-be overseers' smug confidence in their own authority, as a challenge. People like me make it our mission in life to prove that "you're not the boss of me." And offensive enforcement measures like RFID chipping recyclables bins will be guaranteed to provoke the behavior they're trying to discourage.

It's really comical just how clueless they are about the counterproductivity of such heavy-handedness. Take, for example, the anti-drunk driving PSAs put out by the Arkansas State Police: "If you drink and drive, you WILL get caught, and you WILL go to jail." Even the most dull-wittedly obedient citizen out there will immediately discern that such an extreme assertion of their enforcement capabilities is a bald-faced lie. Just about anyone who drinks at all can probably recall -- even if they don't want to admit it -- more than one case where they got behind the wheel with blood alcohol that was technically over the limit, even if it was only after two or three beers, and DIDN'T get caught. Assertions of enforcement capability and threats of punishment that clearly can't be backed up seem almost calculated to bring the state into contempt.

In other words, they done goofed -- and the consequences will never be the same. Sometimes it's almost as if Matrix reality has commercials for red pills embedded in it. The beauty of it is, the Matrix generates its own glitches.




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